The BlackBerry tablet is here and thank heavens it's not called the BlackPad. The PlayBook was officially announced last night at a RIM developer conference in San Francisco.
RIM has decided to dump the BlackBerry 6 OS for a completely new system it calls the BlackBerry Tablet OS. This is built by a firm it bought called QNX, which has developed operating systems for things like planes, trains and automobiles. RIM hopes it will be as big a hit with business users as the iPad has with hoity-toity consumers.
The PlayBook is a 7-inch tablet. It carries a LCD 1,024x600-pixel capacitive touchscreen with full multi-touch and gesture support. Oddly, it doesn't have 3G, but it does offer a 1GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM.
Dual cameras -- 3 megapixels front-facing, 5 megapixels rear-facing -- are capable of recording 1080p video. There's also an HDMI port so you can play your movies on an HDTV. It will also support Adobe Flash 10.1 and measures 130 by 193 by 10mm. You can check it out at the official site here and have a butchers' at this official video:
The PlayBook will hit the US in early 2011 and expected to reach the UK after March of next year. It certainly is a huge step for RIM, but it had been expected for some time. As we said previously, the most important thing about this might not be the fact it has a tablet, but that it has a completely new OS to run on it.
RIM's work with QNX is basically an admission that its new BlackBerry 6 OS is not up to the job and could never be developed in the way that is happening with Android. With the BlackBerry Tablet OS, it appears RIM now has something that might be up to the job of competing with the iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab.
It's certainly pretty, but a whole new OS will require developers to redevelop their existing BlackBerry OS 6 apps. A new WebWorks platform means future apps will work on both, and the Tablet OS supports Java, so the existing BlackBerry Java apps should be easy to port. Even so, it limits the number of apps that will be available at launch.
It's been a while since anything very exciting came from RIM, but it's definitely sticking its neck out. If the new OS transfers well to smart phones -- and we don't see any reason why it wouldn't -- you might see a BlackBerry phone in the future very different to what we have now.
How does this new tablet look to you? And is the choice of a new operating system admitting defeat, or a move that RIM had to make? Comments welcome.