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BlackBerry boss renews disdain for Steve Jobs

Baits world with tablet mystery, um, module cavity

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Research in Motion co-CEO Jim Balsillie has renewed his attack on the Jobsian way, once again pitching the upcoming BlackBerry PlayBook tablet as a much-needed alternative to the Apple iPad.

This morning at the Web 2.0 Summit in downtown San Francisco, Basillie was asked what he would say to Steve Jobs if the Apple CEO were in the room. "The first thing I would say," Basillie replied, "is 'you finally showed up.'" But with that quip out of the way, he reiterated RIM's longstanding criticism of the world according to Jobs.

"We believe that you can bring the mobile to the web," he said. "You don't need to go through some kind of SDK. That's the core part of our message. You can use your [existing] development environment. You can use your Notepad. You can use your web tools. You can use all the normal logic tools that you use. And you can publish your apps to the BlackBerry without writing any native code.

"You don't need an app for the web."

Balsillie says that native apps still have their place, but he insists that they shouldn't replace web technologies. "There's still a role for apps," he said. "But can you use your existing content? Can you use your existing web assets?...Do you need a set of proprietary tools to bring existing assets [onto a device] or can you use your known tools that you use for creating web sites?"

RIM offers a web-based development platform for the BlackBerry and the BlackBerry PlayBook known as WebWorks, a means of building apps with HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript, and the company is promoting use of Adobe AIR, which will run on the PlayBook.

Asked if BlackBerry web apps perform as well as native iPhone or iPad, Balsillie indicated that they do, pointing to online tests comparing the PlayBook and the iPad. But these tests examine JavaScript performance on the two devices. They don't compare web apps to native apps. They compare, well, web apps and web apps:

But Basillie seemed to realize that native apps weren't included in the video. "You execute JavaScript, and we're like three to four times faster than a iPad," he said of the video. "We support multicore processors."

We would also add that the PlayBook doesn't exist yet — but Basillie said it was coming "very, very soon." The company has said in the past that the device will arrive in "early 2011" in the US.

RIM's video compares the non-existent PlayBook with an iPad running iOS version 3.2. Version 4.2, rumored to ship in a week or two, may offer improved JavaScript performance. And by the time the PlayBook ships, Apple may have a dual-core iPad ready for release.

Basillie also hinted that the PlayBook will include some sort of mystery technology the company hasn't previously discussed, saying the device offers a "module cavity" he doesn't want to talk about. But then he talked about it, suggesting that it may house wide-area wireless hardware. "There's a module cavity," he said. "So, it can hold a module. So the question is, 'Do you pair this with a smartphone or standalone wide-area [hardware]?'"

The Playbook will offer Wi-Fi, but the company has been coy about wide-area connectivity. "RIM intends to also offer 3G and 4G models in the future," its initial Playbook press release said.

Asked about the near field communication (NFC) chip Eric Schmidt showed off in an Android phone on Monday – a chip meant to turn phones into de facto credit cards – Basillie said that RIM "would be fools not to have one in the near term. And we're not fools." ®

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