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Wed, Sep 29, 2010 - Page 10 News List

RIM unveils new PlayBook tablet

REUTERS , SAN FRANCISCO

RIM President and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis introduces the new BlackBerry PlayBook as he delivers a keynote address at the BlackberryDevCon 2010 on Monday in San Francisco, California.

PHOTO: AFP

Research In Motion (RIM) unveiled a tablet computer aimed at its core business customers, as it tries to gain a foothold in a fast-growing market dominated by Apple’s iPad.

The BlackBerry PlayBook has a 7-inch (18cm) touchscreen, dual high-definition cameras and boasts support from corporate IT departments. It has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but needs to link with a BlackBerry smartphone to access a cellular network.

RIM on Monday emphasized the PlayBook’s “uncompromised” Web browsing experience — which, unlike the iPad, supports Adobe’s widely used Flash multimedia software — as well as the tablet’s security.

RIM expects to ship the device to corporate customers and developers next month, and to consumers starting early next year, meaning it will miss a crucial sales window in the holiday buying season. In the meantime, many competing tablets are expected to hit the market.

The company also did not reveal how much it would charge for the PlayBook, and pricing could be an important factor in its adoption.

Shares of RIM rose 2 percent before paring gains slightly in after-hours trade following the announcement, made at the company’s annual developers’ conference in San Francisco.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company has recently struggled to impress investors and analysts, who mostly shrugged off the August launch of its Torch smartphone, and fretted about eroding support among its core corporate clientele.

While RIM is pitching the PlayBook as the evolution of its corporate heritage, its hopes the powerful processor and media offerings lure consumers too.

“They talk enterprise, but this will get bought by individuals and used for business,” IDC analyst Stephen Drake said from the floor of the presentation.

The market for tablets — touchscreen devices larger than a smartphone and smaller than a laptop — has exploded since Apple launched its iPad in April. Samsung and Dell have launched competing devices in the past two months, with others expected from Hewlett-Packard and Toshiba.

Industry analysts expect global tablet sales of 40 million to 50 million units next year, with the market still dominated by the iPad.

The PlayBook can mirror a BlackBerry phone, giving users a bigger screen to view media and edit documents, and wipes out all corporate data once the link between the two devices is broken. It weighs 400g and will launch with a dual-core, 1 gigahertz processor running a QNX operating system. RIM acquired QNX less than a year ago.

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