In the end, the name was not the much-dreaded BlackPad, but the much smarter sounding PlayBook. When Research In Motion (RIM) co-Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mike Lazaridis came on stage to announce the the new device, there were whoops of delight from the assembled crowd at the Moscone West Centre attending the BlackBerry DevCon annual event for developers.
And Lazaridis decided to twist the knife much more into Apple, calling the PlayBook, the first 'enterprise ready' tablet and also touted its far more open standards, from the QNX (pronounced 'Kinnex') supported Adobe Flash 10.1 and had a dual-core processor with a gigabyte of RAM that allowed for multitasking (unlike the Apple iPad). And much like Apple had shunned Adobe's Flash platform, one of the first people that Lazaridis called on stage was Adobe Systems' CEO Shantanu Narayen, who heaped effusive praise on the new tablet.
In terms of other specifications, the PlayBook will be only 9.7 millimeters thick and have a 7-inch screen. And while BlackBerry have tried to make the PlayBook the anti-iPad, they have copied one thing from Apple's design philosophy, a non-removable battery. There will be different colour options as was evident by the models on display and different storage capacities - a 16 gigabyte and 32 gigabyte model were on display. The device also has a HDMI-out port and a USB port. With a screen resolution of 1024x600 pixels, the device will be able to support full-HD movie playback. Multi-tasking will also allow the output from the HDMI-out port to be different from what is being shown on the screen.But the marketplace that BlackBerry will be entering will be a crowded one, with Samsung also launching a tablet version of the Galaxy, and several other vendors also entering the market, not least of which is the Rs 1,500 tablet running Google's Android operating system that the government has developed for schools (though the design seems eerily familiar to a Chinese vendor's actual product). Yet, Lazaridis did make some promises that should have BlackBerry fans happy, the first is the ability to sync with BlackBerry devices and support for the popular BlackBerry Messenger service.
Research In Motion despite its problems in India with the government grumbling about certain services has had a bumper few quarters. In the April-July quarter, they sold 12.1 million devices, their most ever, and there are over 50 million active BlackBerry users around the world today. The BlackBerry Messaging service has 28 million active users and 1.5 million new users join the service every month, which made Lazaridis claim that it was the fastest mobile-based social network in the world. There was no definite launch date for the PlayBook announced for India, but RIM announced that the device will be available early next year in North America and by the middle of next year in all other international markets.
The line to see the PlayBook was a hundred deep, yet the device did initially live up to the hype. At 400 grams, it is fairly light, the screen is excellent, and despite the tablet form factor and the QNX underpinnings, it still feels like a quintessential BlackBerry. No pricing was announced, but the PlayBook looked very attractive indeed and if it comes with full support for Enterprise email and applications, it could end up dominating the office environment..