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BlackBerry joins tablet war

V. Sridhar

Pitches PlayBook as enterprise grade with security features


BANGALORE: Research in Motion (RIM), the Canadian company that is best known for the BlackBerry range of mobile handsets, demonstrated its latest offering, the BlackBerry PlayBook, in Bangalore on Wednesday. The PlayBook is among the latest to join the tablet war, in which Apple's iPad is the acknowledged pioneer.

Clean break

The seven-inch LCD touch screen device marks a clean break from RIM's reliance on the BlackBerry operating system, which has been at the heart of every BlackBerry till now. The new tablet runs on an operating system developed by QNX, which RIM acquired about a year ago. The 425-gram tablet has 1 GB RAM, up to 64 GB of storage and 1080p HD video playback. Video images from the device, when connected to a large TV at the demo, were crystal clear, with no pixilation at all. RIM is pitching the PlayBook as an enterprise-grade tablet, emphasising its security-related features, said Annie Mathew, Head of Alliances, RIM India. “This is particularly important because many employees now carry their devices to work and then take them back with them,” said Ms. Mathew.

As the device does not have SIM slot to connect to a network, the PlayBook requires a user to connect either through a Wi-Fi hotspot or by ‘pairing or tethering' it to another smartphone that has the ability to function as modem. This is achieved by connecting the PlayBook to the mobile phone — not necessarily a BlackBerry device — via Bluetooth. Company officials told The Hindu that RIM has plans to introduce another model with a SIM slot.

RIM is also planning to launch a dedicated email client later this year.

A lot of queries featured on how prepared BlackBerry is with its appstore.

Admitting that a device is only as good as the quality of its “application ecosystem”, Ms. Mathew said, “The number of registered developers in India working on applications has increased from about 5,000 a year ago to about 17,000.” The company has also opened the device to Android-based application developers in order to attract a richer assortment of applications for the device, she said.

Ranjan Moses, Carrier Product manager, RIM India, said the PlayBook, like all tablets is meant to be a device that occupies the slot between laptops and smartphones.

Asked how RIM would cope with the narrowing gap between smartphones and tablets — illustrated by the recent launches of high-end phones with faster processors and better displays — Mr. Moses said, “It is difficult to predict where the tablet will go eventually, but we believe there is a space for them in the future.”

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