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RIM opens its PlayBook – tablets clearly set for dominance

But Apple could catch up

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RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis said in a statement that the firm had "set out to engineer the best professional grade tablet in the industry with cutting edge hardware features and one of the world's most robust and flexible operating systems. The BlackBerry PlayBook solidly hits the mark with industry leading power, true multitasking, uncompromised web browsing and high performance multimedia."

The core specifications are already way ahead of the iPad, though its delivery timescale means that Apple will have a chance to respond with updated devices, which of course will have the Apple cachet and sell even better. The RIM PlayBook is powered by a dual-core 1GHz processor, a capacitive touch screen, WebKit browser and offers 1080p video recording. It has N flavoured Wi-Fi and a 3MP front-facing camera and 5MP rear-facing. The product supports Flash Player 10.1, Adobe Mobile AIR and HTML5. It comes with a new developer platform called WebWorks, which can build Apps which span the PlayBook and the BlackBerry Torch, even though they have different operating systems, which is cool. Java is also supported as a cross-platform option. The BlackBerry Tablet OS SDK is planned for release in the coming weeks and developers can register for early access.

RIM unveiled the device at its annual BlackBerry DevCon developer event, indicating that it sees the tablet as a means to expand its enterprise class range of apps.

RIM also introduced a rival ad network to Apple's iAd, called the BlackBerry Advertising Service, which will allow programmers to incorporate in-app promotions which can use a number of independent mobile ad networks including Amobee, Jumptap, Lat49, Millennial Media and Mojiva. Now that's a smart move, and it gets Ad networks on your side, not against you. Developers will earn 60 per cent of revenues derived from ads incorporated into their apps.

But it is the enterprise focus that will open up its existing customer base. It starts life with Push email and BlackBerry security for corporate data access, although we'd expect more and more as we approach delivery.

At the launch the exceptional punch of a dual core GHz processor was said to offer enough power to play many top class games on. The Blackberry App World really doesn't have many games on it, but we need to read between the lines here – it is saying, IT departments will want to push this at corporate players, so we need it to outmuscle the iPad, and hope that gaming app developers will join the party and port away from Apple. It may work and it may open up a little more market share for what is going to be a long marathon of a Tablet war, not a short sprint.

This week another forecast from investment bank Canaccord Genuity, put Tablets at 55 million units in 2011 (our friends at TownHall have it at 72.5 million) with 2010 shipments at 20 million units. Canaccord Genuity reckons that iPad alone will grow from 13.5 million in 2010 to 25.5 million in 2011, and even with a company that is clearly pro-Apple this is making a case that it will have less than a 50 per cent market share a year from now, which is way below the 70 per cent share that Apple has continued to be able to hold in the MP3 player market a full nine years after its first product introduction, something that we agree with, and which bodes well for these other early introductions from Samsung, RIM and anticipated devices from the likes of Motorola.

Copyright © 2010, Faultline

Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.

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