Blackberry maker takes on the iPad

BLACKBERRY maker Research in Motion (RIM) is taking on iPad in the table computer game with a “PlayBook” aimed to capitalise on its strength – the trust of business users keen on secure communications.

“It is the world’s first professional tablet,” RIM president and co-chief executive Mike Lazaridis said as he showed off the device in San Francisco.

The PlayBook is one of a number of tablet computers slated for release in a bid to challenge Apple’s popular iPad and is the first foray outside the mobile phone realm for RIM.

“They are kind of positioning it as the iPad for the suits,” Gartner analyst Van Baker said of the PlayBook announcement.

The PlayBook has a seven-inch touchscreen, smaller than the 9.7 inches of Apple’s iPad, and also plays Adobe Flash video software, which is banned from the Apple device.

And unlike the iPad, it will have two cameras, front and back.

The PlayBook will be able to act as a second, larger screen for a BlackBerry phone, through a secure short-range wireless link. When the connection is severed – perhaps because the user walks away with the phone – no sensitive data like company e-mails are left on the tablet. Outside of Wi-Fi range, it will be able to pick up cellular service to access the web by linking to a BlackBerry.

But the tablet will also work as a standalone device. RIM co-chief executive Jim Balsillie said its goal is to present the full web experience of a computer, including the ability to display Flash, Adobe Systems Inc’s format for video and interactive material on the web.

Apple chief Steve Jobs has resisted allowing Flash on any of the company’s mobile gadgets, arguing the software has too many bugs and sucks too much battery life.

“You are going to be able to get the full web experience,” Lazaridis said, stressing its integration with RIM’s BlackBerry smartphone, a favourite among many professionals.

BlackBerry smartphone users can pair their handset with the PlayBook using a Bluetooth connection to view their email, calendar, documents or other content.

The PlayBook also features front- and rear-facing cameras to support video conferencing and allows multi-tasking between programmes.

RIM expects to begin selling PlayBooks in the United States in early 2011 and rolling the tablets out internationally by the middle of the year.

Lazaridis did not reveal how much RIM plans to charge for the PlayBook.


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