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BlackBerry maker RIM takes on iPad with PlayBook tablet

PlayBook, scheduled for release early next year, will offer two cameras for video chat and will accommodate Adobe Flash programs, which are barred from Apple's iPad.

September 28, 2010|By David Sarno, Los Angeles Times

In one of the first frontal assaults on Apple Inc.'s increasingly popular iPad tablet computer, smart-phone titan Research in Motion Ltd. on Monday announced a pad of its own.

The 7-inch device, called the PlayBook, will be released in early 2011 — and it will go places the current iPad doesn't.

The PlayBook's two built-in cameras will allow for video chat (the iPad is camera-less), and the device will permit Adobe Flash programs, which make up a huge percentage of online video and games. Because Apple has taken a dim view of Flash's performance and security, Flash programs have been barred from the iPad and iPhone.

RIM, which did not release a price for the new device, said the PlayBook would be the "fastest" tablet yet — though at 1GHz, its internal computer processor is about the same speed as the $499 iPad.

The PlayBook will run RIM's proprietary operating system — called BlackBerry Tablet OS — and the initial version will not support a 3G or 4G cellular connection. Like the baseline iPad, it will connect to the Internet only through Wi-Fi.

Though RIM, of Waterloo, Canada, still has less name recognition than the star-studded Apple, it has long led the Cupertino, Calif., company in the smart-phone race, in large part because of the corporate world's preference for the BlackBerry line.

As of July, nearly 40% of the U.S.' 53 million smart phones were Blackberrys, and only about 24% were Apple iPhones, according to Web ratings service ComScore. ( Google Inc.'s Android platform rose to a 17% market share.)

Still, Apple has a commanding lead in the tablet race, having sold 3 million iPads in the device's first 80 days in stores.

On the heels of RIM's announcement, Amazon.com Inc. said it would release a Kindle reading app for the device, which allows for downloading and reading of the 700,000 books in Amazon's e-book store.

david.sarno@latimes.com

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