RIM unveils a tablet of its own, the BlackBerry PlayBook

On Monday Research In Motion (RIM) CEO Mike Lazaridis unveiled a BlackBerry tablet device called the BlackBerry PlayBook at the 2010 BlackBerry Developer Conference.  So what exactly is the PlayBook, you ask?  Let’s start with the hardware specifications.  The 7-inch LCD display (1024 x 600, WSVGA) dominates the device in a form factor we’ve all come to know and love in the Apple iPad.  It’s a capacitive touch screen with full multitouch and gesture support.  For a modern tablet, this thing is a beast.  It packs a Cortex A9-based 1GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM.  Ports around the edges include microHDMI, microUSB, and charging contacts.  802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR support is there as well.  Various video (1080p HD Video, H.264, MPEG, DivX, WMV) and audio (MP3, AAC, WMA) playback formats are supported, as is HDMI video output.  There are two HD webcams, a 3MP cam on the front and a 5MP cam at the rear; the back-facing cam supports 1080p HD video recording.  The PlayBook measures at 5.1″x7.6″x0.4″ and weighs less than one pound, making it smaller and lighter than the iPad.  3G & 4G models will be issued, and although capacity was not formally announced, 16GB & 32GB units were on display.

Next let’s talk software.  No, the PlayBook does not run the recently announced BlackBerry 6 operating system.  Instead it runs BlackBerry Tablet OS, an operating system built with a touch-based interface in mind.  It’s built upon the QNX Neutrino microkernel architecture.  QNX is a software company RIM bought earlier this year, and they are respected in the industry for their reliable, secure, and robust operating system architectures known for powering planes, trains, automobiles, medical equipment, and large core Internet routers.  In other words, RIM is messing around with Tablet OS.  So what’s RIM pushing with their new OS?  The combination of the 1GHz dual-core processor software-based symmetric multiprocessing promises “true multitasking” and a highly responsive, fluid user experience.  You can look forward to “uncompromised web browsing” thanks to support from Adobe Flash Player 10.1, Adobe Mobile AIR, and HTML5 in the mobile WebKit browser.  The PlayBook also touts BlackBerry integration and enterprise-ready support.  This is where RIM is really looking to stand out in the competition.  If you have a BlackBerry smartphone you can pair it to your PlayBook over a Bluetooth connection to view “email, BBM, calendar, tasks, documents and other content” on the larger tablet display, no syncing required.  The PlayBook comes BlackBerry Enterprise Server-ready and compatible out-of-the-box, so this’ll surely make the suits a happy bunch.

Lastly it’s time to bring up developer and app support.  The PlayBook will have access to the BlackBerry App World.  RIM claims that the Tablet OS is “built for developers” and wants the app-makers to start pumping out consumer and business-friendly apps ASAP.  Apple has one leg up on the competition due to the uber-success of the App Store and all its contents and RIM is ready and willing to heat up the competition.  “The [Tablet] OS is fully POSIX compliant enabling easy portability of C-based code, supports Open GL for 2D and 3D graphics intensive applications like gaming, and will run applications built in Adobe Mobile AIR as well as the new BlackBerry WebWorks app platform.”  In addition to announced the PlayBook, RIM pleased developers in attendance with the announced of the WebWorks platform and other dev tools.  In short, WebWorks will allow devs to quickly and efficiently write code for a BlackBerry app that’s tightly integrated with BB 6 and Tablet OS functionality.  A new Advertising Service allows “simple” and “rich media” ads to be easily transposed into an app.  The Payment Service SDK will allow for in-app purchases for third-party devs over over credit card, PayPal, and carrier billing.  Last, RIM is finally opening up BMM to the devs with the BlackBerry Messenger Social Platform.  App devs will have the ability to use BBM to relay messages, files, user profiles, and invitations to end users.

Besides letting loose details about the hardware specifications, glossing over the software capabilities, and getting developers excited to produce content for a new platform, RIM unfortunately did not give an in-depth preview of the the Tablet OS, so it’s hard to say how simple or intuitive the device actually runs.  Definitely peek after the break to watch a preview video that hints at a CoverFlow/WebOS hybrid UI.  It’s interesting to look at how RIM wants to market the PlayBook.  They are calling it a “professional-grade” tablet that is “perfect for either large organizations or an “army of one.””  They are certainly distancing themselves from King iPad by touting the Flash/ HTML5 Webkit browser and true multitasking from the start.  I get it–business suits love their BlackBerrys for the phenomenal enterprise support and the PlayBook would make a sensible companion.  Thing is, I’m not so sure if BlackBerry can bank on the “professional” demographic to gain much market (and more importantly) mind share with the PlayBook.  (What? Is Apple’s approach too fun and playful for serious buyers? I think not.)  Two things need to happen for the PlayBook to become a breakout hit.  The device needs to be competitively priced (pricing has yet to be disclosed) and the App World needs a big backing from developers.  The latter requirement is essential; super resourceful apps make all devices (cell phones, tablets, etc.) enticing for consumers and business professionals alike.  RIM has to prove the worthiness of the PlayBook, devs need to jump onboard the platform, and consumers will respond when it comes time to buy.  The PlayBook has tons of potential and people are excited; Twitter was beeming with positive feedback after the announcement was made.  If RIM can properly execute on this, a worthy competitor to the iPad might finally arrive.  The PlayBook is expected to release in “early 2011” in the US; international rollouts will begin in Q2 2011.

[Via Engadget, here & here]

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA–(Marketwire – 09/27/10) – BlackBerry DEVCON 2010 –

Editors Note: There is a video and two photos available with this Press Release.

Research In Motion (RIM) (NASDAQ:RIMM – News)(TSX:RIM – News) today redefined the possibilities for mobile computing with the unveiling of its new professional-grade BlackBerry® PlayBook™ tablet and BlackBerry® Tablet OS.

Perfect for either large organizations or an “army of one”, the BlackBerry PlayBook is designed to give users what they want, including uncompromised web browsing, true multitasking and high performance multimedia, while also providing advanced security features, out-of-the-box enterprise support and a breakthrough development platform for IT departments and developers. The incredibly powerful and innovative BlackBerry PlayBook is truly a game-changing product in the growing tablet marketplace.

“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,” said Mike Lazaridis, President and Co-CEO at Research In Motion. “The BlackBerry PlayBook solidly hits the mark with industry leading power, true multitasking, uncompromised web browsing and high performance multimedia.”

The Tablet You’ll Want to Take Everywhere

This beautifully designed and incredibly powerful tablet is ultra portable, ultra thin and super convenient for both work and play. Measuring less than half an inch thick and weighing less than a pound, the BlackBerry PlayBook features a vivid 7″ high resolution display that looks and feels great in your hand. With such a unique mix of utility, performance and portability, you’ll want to take it everywhere.

The New Benchmark in Tablet Performance

At its heart, the BlackBerry PlayBook is a multitasking powerhouse. Its groundbreaking performance is jointly fueled by a 1 GHz dual-core processor and the new BlackBerry Tablet OS which supports true symmetric multiprocessing. Together, the abundant processing power and highly sophisticated OS enable the BlackBerry PlayBook to provide users with true multitasking and a highly-responsive and fluid touch screen experience for apps and content services.

Uncompromised Web Browsing

With support for Adobe® Flash® Player 10.1, Adobe® Mobile AIR® and HTML-5, the BlackBerry PlayBook provides customers with an uncompromised, high-fidelity web experience and offers them the ability to enjoy all of the sites, games and media on the web. For more than a decade, the mobile industry has worked to bridge the gap between the “real web” and mobile devices through various apps and technologies and, in fact, a significant number of mobile apps today still simply serve as a proxy for web content that already exists on the web. The BlackBerry PlayBook closes that gap and brings the real, full web experience to mobile users while also opening new and more exciting opportunities for developers and content publishers.

High Performance Multimedia

The BlackBerry PlayBook features premium multimedia features to support high-quality mobile experiences. It includes dual HD cameras for video capture and video conferencing that can both record HD video at the same time, and an HDMI-out port for presenting one’s creations on external displays. The BlackBerry PlayBook also offers rich stereo sound and a media player that rivals the best in the industry.

BlackBerry Integration

For those BlackBerry PlayBook users who carry a BlackBerry smartphone(i), it will also be possible to pair their tablet and smartphone using a secure Bluetooth® connection. This means they can opt to use the larger tablet display to seamlessly and securely view any of the email, BBM™, calendar, tasks, documents and other content that resides on (or is accessible through) their smartphone. They can also use their tablet and smartphone interchangeably without worrying about syncing or duplicating data. This secure integration of BlackBerry tablets and smartphones is a particularly useful feature for those business users who want to leave their laptop behind.

Enterprise Ready

Thanks to the seamless and secure Bluetooth pairing experience and the highly secure underlying OS architecture, the BlackBerry PlayBook is enterprise ready and compatible (out-of-the-box) with BlackBerry® Enterprise Server. When connected over Bluetooth, the smartphone content is viewable on the tablet, but the content actually remains stored on the BlackBerry smartphone and is only temporarily cached on the tablet (and subject to IT policy controls). With this approach to information security, IT departments can deploy the BlackBerry PlayBook to employees out-of-the-box without worrying about all the security and manageability issues that arise when corporate data is stored on yet another device.

QNX Neutrino Reliability

The BlackBerry Tablet OS is built upon the QNX® Neutrino® microkernel architecture, one of the most reliable, secure and robust operating system architectures in the world. Neutrino has been field hardened for years and is being used to support mission-critical applications in everything from planes, trains and automobiles to medical equipment and the largest core routers that run the Internet. The new BlackBerry Tablet OS leverages and builds upon the many proven strengths of this QNX Neutrino architecture to support a professional grade tablet experience and to redefine the possibilities for mobile computing.

An OS Built for Developers

The Neutrino based microkernel architecture in the BlackBerry Tablet OS delivers exceptional performance, high scalability, Common Criteria EAL 4+ security, and support for industry standard tools that are already familiar to hundreds of thousands of developers. The OS is fully POSIX compliant enabling easy portability of C-based code, supports Open GL for 2D and 3D graphics intensive applications like gaming, and will run applications built in Adobe Mobile AIR as well as the new BlackBerry® WebWorks™ app platform announced today (which will allow apps to be written to run on BlackBerry PlayBook tablets as well as BlackBerry smartphones with BlackBerry® 6). The BlackBerry Tablet OS will also support Java enabling developers to easily bring their existing BlackBerry 6 Java applications to the BlackBerry Tablet OS environment.

Key features and specifications of the BlackBerry PlayBook include:

— 7″ LCD, 1024 x 600, WSVGA, capacitive touch screen with full multi-touch
and gesture support
— BlackBerry Tablet OS with support for symmetric multiprocessing
— 1 GHz dual-core processor
— 1 GB RAM
— Dual HD cameras (3 MP front facing, 5 MP rear facing), supports 1080p HD
video recording
— Video playback: 1080p HD Video, H.264, MPEG, DivX, WMV
— Audio playback: MP3, AAC, WMA
— HDMI video output
— Wi-Fi – 802.11 a/b/g/n
— Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
— Connectors: microHDMI, microUSB, charging contacts
— Open, flexible application platform with support for WebKit/HTML-5,
Adobe Flash Player 10.1, Adobe Mobile AIR, Adobe Reader, POSIX, OpenGL,
— Ultra thin and portable:
— Measures 5.1″x7.6″x0.4″ (130mm x 193mm x 10mm)
— Weighs less than a pound (approximately 0.9 lb or 400g)
— Additional features and specifications of the BlackBerry PlayBook will
be shared on or before the date this product is launched in retail
— RIM intends to also offer 3G and 4G models in the future.


The BlackBerry PlayBook is expected to be available in retail outlets and other channels in the United States in early 2011 with rollouts in other international markets beginning in (calendar) Q2.

RIM will begin working with developers and select corporate customers next month to begin development and early testing efforts.

The BlackBerry Tablet OS SDK is planned for release in the coming weeks and developers can register for early access at www.blackberry.com/developers/tabletos.

For more information, visit www.blackberry.com/playbook.

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