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RIM Unveils its Tablet

Unlike the Apple iPad, the PlayBook is “Flash-loving”

Having been kicked in the teeth by both iPhone and Android smartphones this year, Research In Motion unveiled its rumored iPad copycat Monday in an attempt to stop both Apple and Google from leaching more of its revenues.

The thing is called the Blackberry PlayBook, a clear appeal to the company’s largely male installed base of Crackberry heads.

The tablet is positioned as a multitasking “enterprise-ready professional tablet” “perfect for either large organizations or an ‘army of one.’” However, it may have a split personality. Beside corporate power games, it’s also supposed to be good at playing traditional games.

Unlike Apple, the PlayBook is “Flash-loving.” It supports the Apple-scorned Adobe Flash Player 10.1 and Adobe Mobile AIR as well as the Apple-doted- on HTML 5 so RIM can brag that PlayBook will deliver “the real, full web experience to mobile users.”

Otherwise it’s smaller, thinner and lighter than the iPad measuring less than half an inch thick (5.1"x7.6"x0.4") and weighing 14 ounces with a seven- inch 1024 x 600 touchscreen display.

Initially the PlayBook won’t be able to connect to the Internet directly, which is actually a plus in enterprise terms.

It’s fitted with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and in the absence of Wi-Fi it piggybacks on the Blackberry via Bluetooth to access the Internet (no separate service plan). That means that the smartphone’s content is viewable on the tablet, but actually stays on the phone and is only temporarily cached on the tablet (subject to IT policy controls). It disappears once the connection is broken so there’s theoretically less of a security risk and less of a manageability issue.

Eventually RIM is supposed to come up with 3G and 4G versions of the tablet.

The thing is powered by an unidentified 1GHz dual-core processor running on the Unix-like symmetric multiprocessing QNX Neutrino kernel that RIM acquired when it bought QNX earlier this year. For purposes of the PlayBook the operating system is called the BlackBerry Tablet OS and is reputed to offer a highly responsive and fluid touchscreen experience for apps and content services.

The Eclipse-supporting Neutrino, which runs on the PowerPC, x86, Mips, SH-4 and ARM chips, is supposed to be one of the most reliable, robust and secure (Common Criteria EAL 4+) real-time operating system architectures in the world. It supports mission-critical applications in everything from planes, trains and automobiles to medical equipment and the largest core routers that run the Internet not to mention, as Bloomberg does, the control systems in nuclear power plants and the US Army’s unmanned Crusher tanks. (Top that for reliability.)

The OS is POSIX-compliant so C-based code is portable. It supports Open GL for graphics-intensive 2D and 3D applications like gaming, and will run applications built in Mobile AIR as well as the new BlackBerry WebWorks app platform so apps (like Java apps) written for BlackBerry 6-based smartphones will also run on PlayBook.

The widget includes dual 3 MP front-facing, 5 MP rear-facing 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. It has 1GB of RAM.

The dingus won’t be in retail store in the United States until early 2011 with rollouts in overseas to follow in Q2. However, developers and some corporate customers will get the widget in October for development and early testing. An SDK is supposed to be out in the next few weeks and developers can register for early access at www.blackberry.com/developers/ tabletos. The thing is supposed to use industry standard APIs.

There’s no price yet although Reuters says it should come in at the “lower range of prices for consumer tablets already in the suddenly congested market.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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