The announcement yesterday by RIM that it will release a tablet device in early 2011 may be the death knell for the iPad. The new device comes with a 7-inch multi touch touchscreen and a new operating system developed by newly acquired developer QNX.
Called the PlayBook (I’m not sure why they came up with such a lame name), BlackBerry is calling it “the first professional tablet”, and is marketing it as “an incredible gaming platform for publishers and the players”.
Whilst the choice of name for a business tool that is for gamers and publishers is a little confusing, the hardware does a lot of things the iPad doesn’t.
For a start, the new tablet will run Adobe’s Flash, which Apple’s iPad doesn’t. It offers micro – USB ports and micro – HDMI, again not offered with the iPad. It has dual (front and rear) HD cameras for video calling, also unavailable on the iPad. It weighs about 400g. 16GB and 32GB models will be available. One drawback is that it will initially connect to the web via wifi or via a BlackBerry smartphone, however 3G and 4G models are in the works.
BlackBerry is very excited about the new operating system that will offer open standards, which the smartphone maker promises to be “a breakthrough development platform for IT departments and developers”. The developers’ kit will be out in the next few weeks.
This new tool is undoubtedly a smart move by RIM as it dominates the business tool segment. According to research firm ComScore RIM has a 39.3% share of the smartphone market in the US. The iPhone’s share of the same market is only 23.8% whilst Google’s relatively new Android already has 17%.
Some are forecasting the tablet space to be worth up to US$40 billion by 2012 and is becoming increasingly competitive with the recent announcement by Samsung of its Galaxy tablet and the 5 inch Streak introduced by Dell recently and with HTC, Lenovo, Acer and Asus as well as Google and Microsoft all threatening to launch tablets, the battle of the tablets has begun in earnest.
It is too early to say whether or not RIM can deliver on promises made, especially as the new tablet will be introducing another operating system. But if it can keep the price attractive for everyday users and retain all the high quality features, it will pose a serious challenge to the iPad, and may even see off what is essentially after all, a superfluous gadget that no one really needs.