The much-anticipated BlackBerry PlayBook tablet will make its worldwide debut on April 19 in the USA and Canada, before spreading to other countries – including Australia – by mid-year.
Prices for the 7 inch tablet – which runs a bespoke version of the BlackBerry OS instead of the popular Android operating system – begin at US$499 for the entry-level model with 16GB of storage. The 32GB model US$599, or US$699 for 64GB.
No Australian pricing or firm release date has been announced, but based on these US prices and adding 10% for GST the minimum local prices would start at A$549, A$659 and A$769 – and nobody would be surprised to see the stickers settle somewhat higher.
All three PlayBook models are fitted with Wi-Fi but none have 3G – that will come in a later 'PlayBook 2' release.
In the meantime the PlayBook will rely on a Bluetooth connection to a BlackBerry smartphone for 3G Internet access, making the tablet more of a BlackBerry companion than a stand-alone device.
BlackBerry parent company RIM sees the PlayBook as 'the first business-class tablet' and hopes the tablet will duplicate the success of the BlackBerry smartphone in becoming an “enterprise standard”, although the PlayBook also contains a raft of consumer applications better suited to the living room than the conference room.
Crucial to both roles is the PlayBook’s support for standards such as Adobe Flash and HTML5, full 1080p HD video, DivX video plus HDMI and USB ports, albeit in space-saving ‘micro’ connector formats.
The PlayBook also features dual front- and rear-facing cameras to support video conferencing and allows full multi-tasking between programs.
Van Baker, Gartner analyst described RIM’s positioning of the PlayBook as “the iPad for the suits.”
“RIM has a bit of a split personality: they struggle with whether they are a consumer or enterprise device company” Baker explains. “Enterprise is their bread and butter, but consumer is the big market right now.”
The device’s very name echoes some of that duality. A ‘playbook’ is a collection of tactical set-pieces commonly used in North American sports, especially the stop-start games of basketball and gridiron football.
However, the double capitalisation of the word PlayBook also underscores the tablet’s role outside the office. RIM happily talks up the PlayBook’s potential for gaming, with the dual-core 1GHz processor and advanced graphics paving the way for 2D and 3D games.
For more on the device, visit blackberry.com/playbook.
About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.