updated 05:35 am EDT, Tue March 22, 2011
RIMís answer to the iPad gets real
RIMís Blackberry PlayBook tablet is now officially available on pre-order, starting from $500. Three W-Fi-only models are currently up from pre-order on the Best Buy, Canada website. The Blackberry PlayBook 16GB is going for $500 in Wi-Fi form, the 32GB for $600, and the 64GB for $700. The US Best Buy site is currently only listing the 16GB model for the same asking price as in Canada.
Other stores that are expected to stock the tablet in the States includes Staples, Radio Shack, Office Depot. Carriers among those listed to be officially supporting the device include AT&T, Sprint and Verizon. On release, the tablet is expected to be widely available in over 20,000 stores across the US.
"The BlackBerry PlayBook is an amazing tablet that is already being widely praised as a multi-tasking powerhouse with an uncompromised web experience and an ultra-portable design," said Mike Lazaridis, RIM President and Co-CEO. "Given the high level of customer interest in the BlackBerry PlayBook, we are particularly pleased to be working with such an amazing lineup of retail partners."
The device is equipped with a seven-inch display with a 1024x600 resolution and is powered by a TI OMAP 4430 processor matched with 1GB of RAM. It is fitted with a three-megapixel front camera and a five-megapixel rear camera. It is capable of supporting push e-mail, but only when paired to a phone over Bluetooth. The PlayBook runs a mobile-optimized version of the QNX OS, BlackBerry Tablet OS, that's capable of full multitasking, while its web browser supports Flash 10.1 and much of the OS itself runs on Adobe's AIR.
RIM expects the PlayBook to ship on April 19 in the US and Canada, with more countries and the promised 3G and 4G versions arriving at an undefined date.
The pricing makes the PlayBook competitive with an equivalent iPad 2. Firming up the release puts an end to more than a half a year's wait for the device and has seen many of the self-proclaimed advantages disappear. While it still has Flash and is unique in having deep integration that improves performance, the PlayBook is now roughly comparable in speed and costs the same as its larger Apple rival.