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BlackBerry Playbook Preview

 BlackBerry Playbook Available now
28th September 2010

Another entry to the Tablet market, the BlackBerry Playbook may look like other tablets on the surface, but underneath is a very different beast from other BlackBerries.. and indeed other tablets.

It's an innovative device from a company that has been sorely lacking in innovation recently, but in this case innovation comes with its own drawbacks, more of which later.

The Playbook a big black slab with a 7" 1024 x 600 pixel display, measuring 193 x 130 x 10mm and weighing 400 grams. On the back is a 5 megapixel camera, on the front is a 3 megapixel camera - both cameras are capable of HD video recording, and the Playbook is also designed for videoconferencing use.

Initially, the Playbook will offer WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity only with 3G and 4G models following later. So if you want to use it with a cellular provider then you need to pair it with a compatible mobile phone, which does depend on you being able to use your phone for tethering.

Inside is a dual-core 1GHz processor with a huge 1GB of RAM, a highly impressive specification that makes the Playbook stand apart from many other competing devices.

Possibly the most interesting thing about the Playbook is the operating system. Dubbed the "BlackBerry Tablet OS" by RIM, it's is actually based on QNX which has been used widely in industrial systems for many years. QNX is an impressively rock solid operating system which is the sort of thing that you can run your nuclear reactor on, so the BlackBerry Tablet OS certainly has an impressive pedigree. The OS is designed to support symmetrical processing across both processor cores, in other words.. this should be very fast indeed.

Despite its industrial heritage, the OS can play back a wide variety of multimedia formats (and it has an HDMI port too for playing video), it supports Adobe Flash 10.1, comes with a WebKit-based browser and supports industry standards such as OpenGL and POSIX.

The Playbook can integrate with BlackBerry smartphones to synchronise with mail and contacts, and for corporate BlackBerry customers it is possible to take integration even further with access to documents and other shared resources. Despite the "Playbook" name, RIM are very much pitching this as an enterprise-ready device. Mobile Gazette regulars with long memories might remember the cancelled Palm Foleo which tried to do the same thing, we are guessing that RIM might have more success.

As we said before, innovation often comes with some drawbacks, in this case there's a great big one.. the operating system. Although the QNX-based OS looks really good, right at the moment there is basically no software available for the BlackBerry Tablet OS at all. Yes, BlackBerry have kick-started a developer programme , and the Playbook's industry standards should make it less painful to port applications across, but fundamentally RIM are starting with a completely blank slate. Remember that when the Apple iPad launched, it was already compatible with thousands of applications written for the iPhone.. because basically the iPad is just a scaled-up iPhone, but the Playbook is not a scaled-up BlackBerry.

RIM aren't alone in this approach - rivals HP are reportedly coming out with a tablet based on the WebOS platform that they bought from Palm. But will developers really want another operating system to write for? Or will the relatively uncrowded market give them a chance to make more of an impact than the ultra-competitive world of Android and Apple applications?

The BlackBerry Playbook certainly marks an interesting new direction for RIM. It's too early at the moment to judge what sort of impact it will make on the market, although we suspect that it will primarily appeal to those who already use BlackBerry devices. More details about the Playbook's capabilities will be made available closer to the launch date of early 2011 in the US, and Q2 2011 in the rest of the world.

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BlackBerry Playbook at a glance

Available:

Early 2011

Network:

3G and 4G optional during 2011

Data:

WiFi

Screen:

7" 1024 x 600 pixels

Camera:

5 megapixels (back)

3 megapixels (front)

Size:

Medium tablet
193 x 130 x 10mm / 400 grams

Bluetooth:

Yes

Memory card:

Not specified

Infra-red:

No

Polyphonic:

Yes

Java:

Yes

GPS:

Not specified

OS:

BlackBerry Tablet OS

Battery life:

Not specified

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