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BlackBerry PlayBook: Hot Hardware, But At What Price?

Type in BlackBerryPlayBook.com and you'll end up eyeballing probably the most gadget-licious tablet announced yet.

Type in BlackBerryPlayBook.com and you'll end up eyeballing probably the most gadget-licious tablet announced yet. What has bloggers so lathered up, when the iPad is riding so high and a wave of Android tablets are coming soon? A recap of the relevant specs explains why.

- First tablet announced with a dual-core CPU (1 GHz ARM Cortex A9)

How much of a big deal is this? Well, RIM says it delivers "true multi-tasking" of apps, a clear dig at what was, until a recent iOS4 update, the inability of the iPhone or iPad to run more than one non-Apple app at a time.

Also, when Samsung announced its dual-core Cortex A9 CPU called Orion, it said Orion would provide 50% more processing power than the single-core Hummingbird used in its Epic 4G smartphone and its Galaxy Tab tablet. At the same time, Orion would extend battery life and allow 1080p video capability and HD recording.

What price will Waterloo set for its hottest piece of hardware yet?

Orion, by the way, is one of a wave of many other coming dual-core ARM Cortex CPUs. Nvidia, TI and Qualcomm are also making them. So while dual-core may seem really hot now, it will probably be mainstream by the middle of next year.

- 1 GB of RAM. That's reportedly twice what the iPhone 4 has and 4 times what the iPad has. That will aid when you open multiple tabs on your Web browser, keep the memory-hogging Flash player from crashing, and keep multi-tasking apps humming.

- Two HD cameras - a 3 megapixel front-facing camera and a 5 megapixel camera both of which record at 1080p. The iPad, as some have complained, lacks a camera altogether.

- Hardware-accelerated version of Adobe Flash 10.1 player, meaning it is fully compatible with all desktop Flash apps and videos.

- 1024x600 7-inch multi-touch screen with 1080p resolution and HDMI video output..

- Tethered 3G Internet access via nearby BlackBerry smartphone. Wi-Fi also available, but no 3G on its own for the PlayBook, for now.

These impressive specs will come at a price, even if there are as many as two pricing (read: discount) cycles between now and the PlayBook's Q1 2011 release.

Here are the PlayBook's main competitors:

- Avaya's Flare enterprise tablet is expected to have a list price of $2,000. It will have a huge11.6-inch HD screen and camera, but dual-core hasn't been confirmed by the company.

- Cisco's 7-inch Cius is an Android enterprise tablet that handily beats the PlayBook on connectivity (Wi-Fi and 3G and 4G) but will 'only' have 720p HD video. Cisco hasn't given out other detailed specs. The Cius is expected to list for less than $1,000.

- Apple's iPad lists for between $499 and $829.

RIM can probably get away with a list price of $1,500, as that price would drop substantially once bundled with operator service. But if RIM really wants to protect its enterprise house, the benefits of listing at $999 can't be underestimated, even if enterprises aren't price-sensitive like consumers. Witness how hard Apple worked to get its entry-level iPad under $500, and how that seems to be reaping benefits with consumers, enterprises and schools. And surveys showing that potential Android tablet buyers are expecting sub-$300 tablets.


What price do you think RIM will set for its PlayBook? What price do YOU think it SHOULD be?