RIM unveils PlayBook tablet to rival iPad

RIM is racing to get its tablet into stores as Hewlett-Packard, Samsung Electronics and Motorola build similar devices in a bid to emulate the success of the iPad in filling the gap between smartphones and laptops. Apple sold 3 million iPads in the first 80 days after the device’s April debut, eclipsing sales of its iPod music player.
“RIM needs a tablet device because it’s necessary for all the device makers to have a multiplatform strategy to compete in the long term,” said Scott Sutherland, an analyst at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles. “With new devices coming out on multiple operating systems, it’s as much defensive for RIM to have a tablet as it is offensive.”
The tablet will be available in the US in early 2011 and in other countries in the second quarter, RIM said. The company didn’t give a price for the device.
RIM, based in Waterloo, Ontario, fell 51 cents to $48.36 yesterday on the Nasdaq Stock Market before the announcement. The stock has lost 28 per cent this year, compared with a 38 per cent gain for Apple.
Shrinking market share
“The smaller screen allows a little more portability than an iPad, making it easier to carry in your briefcase,” Matt Thornton, an analyst at Avian Securities in Boston, said in an interview.
That may be a deliberate strategy to counter the success of the iPad among business users. Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook said in July that 50 per cent of Fortune 100 companies are providing the iPad to employees or testing the tablet computer.
RIM is counting on the tablet to increase revenue as the BlackBerry loses ground. The company’s share of the smartphone market slid to 18.2 per cent in the second quarter from 19 per cent a year earlier. Apple’s iPhone boosted its share to 14.2 per cent from 13 per cent and devices based on Google’s Android software surged to 17.2 per cent from 1.8 per cent, according to researcher IDC.
Flash video
The PlayBook has been built with the BlackBerry’s security features that made it popular with governments and Wall Street banks, differentiating the tablet from the competition, Balsillie said. The device’s web browser is compatible with Adobe Systems’ Flash technology to allow customers to watch a broader range of video content from the internet, he said. The iPad doesn’t run Flash video or animation.
By promoting the PlayBook’s compatibility with Flash, “absolutely they’re trying to differentiate some of the advantages of going with the PlayBook platform,” said Ashok Kumar, an analyst at Rodman & Renshaw in San Francisco. He rates the company “market perform”.
“The initial low-hanging fruit for the company is to go after the installed subscribers base of 50 million and over the longer term expand the opportunity beyond that,” he said.
Music, media
Balsillie said the PlayBook, which weighs 0.9 pounds (400 grams), includes a front and rear-facing camera and will be sold through wireless carriers and retailers, without providing specifics.
The tablet uses wi-fi to connect to the internet wherever the wireless technology is available, including a home or office. When not near such wi-fi “hotspots”, people can connect wirelessly to their BlackBerry with Bluetooth technology and then to the web. The device won’t be able to connect directly to the mobile-phone network the way some iPads can, though RIM plans later versions that will be able to do that.
RIM is building the device based on software built by QNX Software Systems, a company RIM bought in April for $200 million.

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