BlackBerry PlayBook: Serious iPad 2 competitor?

The iPad 2 is enjoying brisk sales since the launch last week. One tablet coming in a few weeks that could definitely give the iPad some serious competition is the BlackBerry PlayBook.

No doubt Apple is feeling pretty good about things with sales of the iPad 2 keeping the company coffers overflowing. That's why everyone is talking about the tablets coming down the pike to give the iPad 2 a run for that money. Such talk usually centers around the Motorola XOOM which is already on retailer shelves, and also the HP TouchPad which is scheduled to appear soon. One tablet coming in a few weeks that could give the iPad some serious competition is the BlackBerry PlayBook.

The PlayBook is a 7-inch tablet that RIM is hoping will stimulate the BlackBerry line into the prominence of old. The company has been pushing the PlayBook for several months at every major geek gathering on the planet. While it is not certain the PlayBook will be a fitting rival for the slate from Cupertino, there are a couple of reasons to think it might do better than many expect.

Design. The HP TouchPad design has captured the attention of many who have seen it first-hand, myself included, because it is new and innovative. While the folks at RIM will likely deny it, the PlayBook design borrows liberally from some of the best webOS interface features. These include the touch-sensitive bezel that adds special gesture control to the interface and the depiction of running tasks as "cards" on the desktop. Demos of the PlayBook I have seen show the interface design to be compelling, and one that might appeal to consumers.

Enterprise. The second reason the PlayBook may be a true competitor for the iPad 2 is the big one. When the BlackBerry comes to mind it is often in the role of has-been in the enterprise, but the fact is RIM is still huge in the corporate environment. I hear regularly from folks who complain that their employer only allows the BlackBerry in worker's toolkits, because RIM is a trusted provider for large enterprises. This may play a pivotal role in the launch of the PlayBook, as it is squarely aimed at the enterprise. It will not be a stretch to see these same enterprises that exclusively use BlackBerry smartphones, to augment those with PlayBooks for employees that have a need for a tablet. Or perhaps RIM will smartly appeal to the companies to allow employee purchased PlayBooks to tap into the corporate environment. The PlayBook, like the HP TouchPad, has the ability to wirelessly connect to the smartphone for added functionality. This could be a wild card for getting the PlayBook in the hands of consumers, and no other tablet has this option.

The pricing of the PlayBook is reported to be competitive with the iPad 2, with the entry-level model starting at $499. This proves that RIM is serious about getting the PlayBook launched as strongly as possible, and it will be very interesting to see how it is received by both the consumer and the enterprise markets.