Monday, September 27, 2010

RIM tosses its hat into the tablet market with the PlayBook

At the BlackBerry Developer Conference in San Francisco, RIM announced and demonstrated its new tablet, the PlayBook. Based on the QNX operating system that RIM recently acquired and a new Software Development Kit called WebWorks, the PlayBook will compete directly with the iPad, but no prices or availability date (other than early 2011) were announced.

The PlayBook will have a 7" 1024 x 600 display with capacitive touch-sensing, a dual-core 1GHz ARM Cortex A9-based processor, 1GB of RAM and dual cameras (3 megapixels front-facing with videoconferencing support, and 5 megapixels on the back of the tablet.) The company didn't state the amount of flash memory that will be available, but prototypes shown at the conference were marked "16GB" and "32GB".

RIM claims that the PlayBook will support OpenGL graphics, POSIX and HTML5, as well as Flash Player 10.1 and Adobe AIR applications. Engadget says that the user interface looks a bit like "a mashup of HP/Palm's WebOS and BlackBerry OS." They also got a chance to see the tablet in action (albeit in a static demonstration behind thick panes of plexiglas.)

The question for RIM is what the tablet market is going to look like in early 2011, and how well the PlayBook will slot into the market at that time. Android 3.0 (Gingerbread) should be released in early 2011 and will unleash the flood of cheap Android tablets that we've been waiting for all year. January is a big month for Apple announcements, and we're likely to see the next-generation iPad, almost certainly with cameras, at that time. From what was said today, the PlayBook is not so much forward-looking as it is a response to things that the current iPad can't do. It would be nice to see RIM advance the state of the art, but unless there's a lot to the PlayBook or WebWorks that hasn't been seen yet, today's announcement wasn't encouraging.
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