Blackberry Presents Its Answer to the iPad: The Playbook
Another escalation in the tablet war?
Blackberry has announced its answer to the Apple's iPad with a new tablet which goes by the name of Playbook. The company has unveiled its tablet computer to much anticipation at its developer conference, Devcon, in San Francisco. Its uniqueness is it is one of the first business-centric devices in the tablet market.
According to analysts, the release was a clever move by the Blackberry maker, Research In Motion (RIM), whose smartphones already dominate the business sector. "This is one of the most exciting times in our history,” said Mike Lazaridis, RIM chief executive officer. "RIM set out to engineer the best professional-grade tablet in the industry with cutting-edge hardware features and one of the world's most robust and flexible operating systems,” Lazaridis added.
The Playbook will give RIM an opportunity to dominate in a market it is familiar with, and where it enjoys a solid reputation. "RIM's Blackberry Playbook tablet looks to be a real challenger to Apple's iPad, playing on its business credentials, rather than being just another 'joy machine,’” Stuart Miles, editor of mobile technology website Pocket-Lint said. "Whether RIM can deliver what it promises in the business environment with a selection of new apps on yet another operating system will be the real test though. Either way, it's clear that the battle of the tablets is now full steam ahead.”
Just like the iPad, the Playbook will have both Bluetooth and WiFi. However, it will have no 3G capabilities (a move that can damage acceptance by operators) but will enable a data connection by tethering to a Blackberry smartphone. The gizmo will possess a 7-inch (18cm) screen with front and rear facing cameras which will enable video conference, an important feature that the iPad does not enable, that will appeal to the business market.
The operating system will not use the new Blackberry OS 6 but instead will be based on QNX software, which was recently acquired by RIM, and has extensive expertise in embedded systems for cars. The new OS is designed specifically for the tablet and will avoid the difficulties that come from adjusting a smartphone OS to the tablet platform, that Apple and others have encountered.
RIM expects to ship the new device to corporate customers and developers as soon as this month. But, it will only become commercially available in early 2011. RIM has yet to set an exact price but says it will fall "in the lower range of prices for consumer tablets already in the overcrowded market,” perhaps meaning they will shoot for a lower price than the iPad.
The launch of the Playbook comes as the tablet market becomes an increasingly competitive and crowded field, dominated by the iPad since its April launch, with predicted sales of 12 million by the end of the year. Other predictions put iPad sales at 28 million by 2011.
RIM joins a tough league with many competitors, including HP, Samsung with its new Galaxy tablet, Dell with the Streak and other companies which will soon have their tablets such as Lenovo, Asus, HTC, and Acer as, well as Google and Microsoft. Another possible contender, threatening RIM's targeted business sector, is likely to come in the form of Cisco's Cius tablet.
At last, what remains to be seen is whether they can replicate the BlackBerry's success and whether RIM can keep the price realistic for everyday users. A high price tag could convince them that the Playbook tablet is a superfluous luxury gadget that they don't really need, especially since RIM doesn't enjoy the same branding Apple enjoys, which drives fans to buy whatever they are selling.