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  • 28Sep

    BlackBerry Introduces the PlayBook Tablet

    From NYT

    OTTAWA — Research In Motion, the Canadian maker of the BlackBerry smartphone, introduced its first tablet computer on Monday at a developers’ conference in San Francisco. But in a return to its roots, the company said that the new device, the BlackBerry PlayBook, would be aimed mainly at business users.

    After popularizing wireless e-mail, R.I.M. has ceded much of its leadership in the smartphone market to Apple and phones based onGoogle’s Android operating system.

    The introduction of a tablet computer will not end criticism from some analysts that R.I.M. is now playing catch-up with Apple. But in a bid to distinguish the PlayBook from Apple’s iPad, Michael Lazaridis, R.I.M.’s co-chief executive, said that the new tablet contained several features requested by corporate information technology departments.

    In an address to conference attendees, Mr. Lazaridis called the PlayBook “the world’s first professional tablet” and repeatedly emphasized that it was fully compatible with the special servers that corporations and governments now used to control and monitor employees’ BlackBerry devices.

    While the company offered some specifics about the new device, it left many questions unanswered, most notably the tablet’s price. The company was also vague about its release date, indicating only that it would be available early next year.

    Among the PlayBook’s novel features are outlets that allow it to display material on computer monitors or television sets, but Mr. Lazaridis made no effort to use them during his presentation. As animations showing the device’s features appeared above him on a giant screen, he did little more with the PlayBook in his hand than switch it on.

    “It’s a very real product,” said Charles S. Golvin, principal analyst with Forrester Research. “But obviously it’s very much a work in progress.”

    Perhaps responding to criticisms that the operating system for R.I.M.’s phone is outdated, the PlayBook will use a new operating system developed by QNX Software Systems, a company R.I.M. acquired from Harman International earlier this year.

    The new device can also display Web pages created using Adobe’s Flash software, a capability not found on the iPad. To underscore that point, Shantanu Narayen, the president and chief executive of Adobe, appeared on stage with Mr. Lazaridis.

    While R.I.M.’s phones and tablet will have incompatible operating systems, Mr. Golvin expects that outside software application developers will work around that issue by using Flash, as well as standard Web page protocols.

    R.I.M. has lagged well behind Apple in terms of the number of applications available for its hand-held devices. But immediately after the PlayBook announcement, Amazon said that it would introduce a Kindle e-book application for the PlayBook.

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