Infamously known as the “BlackPad” both inside and outside the company, the first tablet from RIM is designed to compete directly against iPad, as well as target corporate customers looking for BlackBerry’s security features and corporate BES support.
BlackPad, raises the stakes on iPad in a few ways. First, it has a front-facing camera that allows for video conferencing. RIM hasn’t said if they will support FaceTime at this point, but will likely utilize BlackBerry Messenger initially. In addition, BlackPad’s operating system is compiled atop Linux (built in-part by Linux security experts at QNX), allowing for true multitasking and built-in Flash out of the box.
Most importantly however, is RIM’s commitment to allow BlackPad to tether from today’s BlackBerries, a move that pits RIM in direct animosity with carriers that wish to charge for tethering. RIM appears to have pulled the trigger on a move that Microsoft caved to the carriers on. Because of this, BlackPad will not have an optional cellular/3G radio, instead offering one 16 GB model with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi standard. Future models will likely offer 3G and 4G radios built-in, making Clearwire and other data-centric carriers attractive targets for future models.
While RIM says their main focus is on the corporate world, the company today is shipping an SDK for BlackPad that will give access to both Java and OpenGL on the device, facilitating game development as well as apps that can leverage the device’s 7-inch, 1024×600 display.
Among the BlackBerry PlayBook’s other features are USB with video out support (possibly composite) alongside HDMI for 1080p video playback, rear facing camera (in addition to the front-facing camera), 802.11n, and support for hardware accelerated codes ranging from DiVX and H.264, to FLV.
RIM says the BlackBerry PlayBook will ship in time for the holiday buying season.