RIM reveals its iPad killer – say hello to the PlayBook

28 Sep 2010

Research in Motion has taken the wraps off its new tablet computer device, the BlackBerry PlayBook, which will take on Apple’s iPad. The new device comes with video conferencing capabilities, multi-tasking and is being described by RIM as the fastest tablet yet.

As reported by Siliconrepublic, RIM yesterday unveiled its new professional-grade BlackBerry PlayBook tablet – originally dubbed the BlackPad – and BlackBerry Tablet OS. The device is being positioned for the highly secure enterprise worker and the decision to enable web access by tethering the device to secure and encrypted BlackBerry smartphones appears designed to put security conscious CIOs at ease.

Perfect for either large organisations or an “army of one”, the BlackBerry PlayBook is designed to give users what they want, including uncompromised web browsing, true multitasking and high performance multimedia, while also providing advanced security features, out-of-the-box enterprise support and a breakthrough development platform for IT departments and developers.

“RIM set out to engineer the best professional-grade tablet in the industry with cutting-edge hardware features and one of the world’s most robust and flexible operating systems,” said Mike Lazaridis, president and Co-CEO at Research In Motion.

“The BlackBerry PlayBook solidly hits the mark with industry-leading power, true multitasking, uncompromised web browsing and high performance multimedia.”

Measuring less than half an inch thick and weighing less than a pound, the BlackBerry PlayBook features a vivid 7-inch, high-resolution display.

Multitasking powerhouse

RIM describes the BlackBerry PlayBook as a multitasking powerhouse fuelled by a 1 GHz dual-core processor and the new BlackBerry Tablet OS which supports true symmetric multiprocessing. This, it says, makes the device ideal for multitasking and boasts a highly-responsive and fluid touchscreen experience for apps and content services. 

The PlayBook comes with support for Adobe Flash Player 10.1, Adobe Mobile AIR and HTML 5.

“For more than a decade, the mobile industry has worked to bridge the gap between the ‘real web’ and mobile devices through various apps and technologies and, in fact, a significant number of mobile apps today still simply serve as a proxy for web content that already exists on the web. The BlackBerry PlayBook closes that gap and brings the real, full web experience to mobile users while also opening new and more exciting opportunities for developers and content publishers,” RIM said in a statement.

The BlackBerry PlayBook includes dual 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.The BlackBerry PlayBook also offers rich stereo sound and a media player that RIM claims rivals the best in the industry.

Key features and specs of the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet:

  • 7” LCD, 1024 x 600, WSVGA, capacitive touch screen with full multi-touch and gesture support
  • BlackBerry Tablet OS with support for symmetric multiprocessing
  • 1 GHz dual-core processor
  • 1 GB RAM
  • Dual HD cameras (3 MP front facing, 5 MP rear facing), supports 1080p HD video recording 
  • Video playback: 1080p HD Video, H.264, MPEG, DivX, WMV
  • Audio playback: MP3, AAC, WMA
  • HDMI video output
  • Wi-Fi – 802.11 a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  • Connectors: microHDMI, microUSB, charging contacts
  • Open, flexible application platform with support for WebKit/HTML-5, Adobe Flash Player 10.1, Adobe Mobile AIR, Adobe Reader, POSIX, OpenGL, Java
  • Ultra thin and portable:
  • Measures 5.1”x7.6”x0.4” (130mm x 193mm x 10mm)
  • Weighs less than a pound (about 0.9 lb or 400g)
  • Additional features and specifications of the BlackBerry PlayBook will be shared on or before the date this product is launched in retail outlets
  • RIM intends to also offer 3G and 4G models in the future.

BlackBerry integration

For those BlackBerry PlayBook users who carry a BlackBerry smartphone, it will also be possible to pair their tablet and smartphone using a secure Bluetooth connection. This means they can opt to use the larger tablet display to seamlessly and securely view any of the email, BBM, calendar, tasks, documents and other content that resides on (or is accessible through) their smartphones.

They can also use their tablets and smartphones interchangeably without worrying about syncing or duplicating data. This secure integration of BlackBerry tablets and smartphones is a particularly useful feature for those business users who want to leave their laptop behind.

Because of the secure Bluetooth and underlying OS architecture, RIM says the BlackBerry PlayBook is enterprise ready and compatible (out-of-the-box) with BlackBerryEnterprise Server.

When connected over Bluetooth, the smartphone content is viewable on the tablet, but the content actually remains stored on the BlackBerry smartphone and is only temporarily cached on the tablet (and subject to IT policy controls).

With this approach to information security, IT departments can deploy the BlackBerry PlayBook to employees out-of-the-box without worrying about all the security and manageability issues that arise when corporate data is stored on yet another device.

QNX operating system

The BlackBerry Tablet OS is built upon the QNX Neutrino microkernel architecture, one of the most reliable, secure and robust operating system architectures in the world.

Neutrino has been field hardened for years and is being used to support mission-critical applications in everything from planes, trains and automobiles to medical equipment and the largest core routers that run the internet.

The new BlackBerry Tablet OS leverages and builds upon the many proven strengths of this QNX Neutrino architecture to support a professional grade tablet experience and to redefine the possibilities for mobile computing.

The Neutrino based microkernel architecture in the BlackBerry Tablet OS delivers exceptional performance, high scalability, Common Criteria EAL 4+ security, and support for industry standard tools that are already familiar to hundreds of thousands of developers.

The OS is fully POSIX compliant enabling easy portability of C-based code, supports Open GL for 2D and 3D graphics intensive applications like gaming, and will run applications built in Adobe Mobile AIRas well as the new BlackBerry WebWorks app platform announced today (which will allow apps to be written to run on BlackBerry PlayBook tablets as well as BlackBerry smartphones with BlackBerry 6).

The BlackBerry Tablet OS will also support Java, enabling developers to easily bring their existing BlackBerry 6 Java applications to the BlackBerry Tablet OS environment.

The BlackBerry PlayBook is expected to be available in retail outlets and other channels in the US in early 2011, with rollouts in other international markets beginning in (calendar) Q2.

RIM will begin working with developers and select corporate customers next month to begin development and early testing efforts.

The BlackBerry Tablet OS SDK is planned for release in the coming weeks and developers can register for early access online.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years