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.