RIM launches BlackBerry PlayBook tablet

Research In Motion has introduced its hotly-anticipated first tablet computer, which comes with an HTML 5-compatible browser and a new OS, at its developer conference in San Francisco
Written by Simon Bisson, Contributor

RIM co-chief executive Mike Lazaridis unveiled BlackBerry's tablet, the PlayBook, at the company's Devcon 2010 event on Monday in San Francisco.

Describing it as "BlackBerry amplified", Lazaridis said the PlayBook — rumoured to be called the BlackPad before its debut — has a 7-inch 1,024 by 600-screen, is 9.7-mm thick, and is intended for use as a companion to BlackBerry smartphones and as a stand-alone Wi-Fi connected device.

Rolling out in early 2011 and based on a 1GHz dual-core ARM A9 Cortex processor, the PlayBook has 1GB of RAM, and uses a variant of the QNX operating system. Lazaridis said the device offers a full hardware-accelerated web browsing experience with HTML 5 and Flash 10.1, 1080p high-definition video, front and rear HD cameras and a standard HDMI connector that can replay video while other apps are in use.

Although it has no mobile phone functions, PlayBook will connect to BlackBerry phones for email and for personal information management (PIM) functions, using an NSA-approved secure Bluetooth connection. This gives access to existing BlackBerry Enterprise Server networks, and Lazaridis noted that "this is what CIOs [chief information officers] want, and we expect this to be the enterprise standard, too".

"You don't build a skyscraper on a house foundation," Lazaridis added, announcing a new QNX-based operating system, the BlackBerry Tablet OS. The OS is Posix-compliant to simplify application portability from Linux and MacOS, and is a microkernel OS with support for symmetric and distributed multiprocessing. QNX's history as a real-time operating system gives the PlayBook Common Criteria EAL 4+ security certification and scalability, he said.

Developers will get access to a native software developer kit (SDK), with OpenGL support. The built-in web browser will support RIM's new WebWorks HTML application platform, and Flash 10.1 support means that existing Flash applications can run in the PlayBook's browser. Developers using Adobe's AIR can also build Flash applications that can be installed and run outside the PlayBook's browser, described by Adobe chief executive Shantanu Narayen as "coupling the uncompromised web with the hardware".

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