RIM Unveils a New PlayBook

SAN FRANCISCO -- Watch out iPad. Here comes the BlackBerry PlayBook.

Research in Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM) gave the first public showing of its long-rumored tablet computer here before a cheering audience at the BlackBerry Developers Conference.

RIM Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis billed the PlayBook is the world's first tablet designed for professionals. "PlayBook is enterprise-ready," he said. "CIOs can rest assured it's a secure device with unique BlackBerry integration."

While Lazaridis didn't name competitors, it was clear he had Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPad and other potential challengers in mind when he said that the PlayBook is a better choice for companies already supporting BlackBerry devices.

"Out of the box, you already have an account you've paid for," he said. "The PlayBook gives you an amplified view of what's on your BlackBerry and you won't need new software or a new data plan -- it's compatible with BlackBerry Enterprise Server."

The news comes as Apple's iPad claims pole position in the mainstream tablet market, with a growing number of enterprises adopting and supporting the device. And Apple won't have to worry about competition from the PlayBook right away, as RIM said its new tablet won't be available until early next year.

Another competitor, Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO), also plans to release its Cius tablet early next year. That device will also be geared toward the enterprise market.

But Lazaridis rattled off a host of features he said will make the PlayBook well worth the wait, including true multiprocessing and multitasking and support for Adobe Flash Player 10.1, as well as Adobe Mobile AIR, for rich-media applications. Like the iPad, PlayBook will also support HTML5 applications, which Apple has promoted as an alternative to Flash.

Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE) CEO Shantanu Narayen, who joined Lazaridis on stage, said the PlayBook was about how to deliver an "uncompromised Web experience. We'd love to get our over 3 million creative professionals" developing for the Playbook.

In addition to releasing a software developer kit (SDK) later this year, RIM said it will begin working with developers and select corporate customers next month on new applications.

Hardware includes a 7-inch, 1024 x 600 LCD display, 1 GHz, dual-core processor and 1 GB RAM. The device also boasts dual HD cameras (3 Megapixels front facing and 5 MP rear facing), and support for 1080p HD video recording as well as HDMI and USB ports.

A competitive edge for mobile computing?

The PlayBook is powered by the QNX operating system, which RIM acquired as a part of its recent purchase of QNX, a provider of real-time operating systems.

Analyst Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates, called QNX a "highly strategic fit for RIM's long term strategy," in an email to clients.

Noting the earlier BlackPad codename for the Playbook, Gold said, "If the BlackPad targets RIM's installed base of business users effectively, it will be a very successful product, and one that could enable new application solutions beyond those available from competing tablets."

"And it will enhance and extend the BlackBerry corporate infrastructure within RIM's installed base," Gold added. "This will be beneficial to both business users who are currently employing the BlackBerry Enterprise Server architecture and RIM's long term business prospects."

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


Blackberry, tablet, RIM, mobile devices, PlayBook