Competing with iPad

The Canadian company that gave us the BlackBerry — still the dominant phone in corporate circles — thinks its business customers will have room in their briefcases for at least one more device: the PlayBook.

NEW YORK — The Canadian company that gave us the BlackBerry — still the dominant phone in corporate circles — thinks its business customers will have room in their briefcases for at least one more device: the PlayBook. Research in Motion Ltd. (TSX:RIM) showed off the tablet for the first time Monday and is set to launch it early 2011, with an international rollout later in the year. With it RIM is betting on a smaller, lighter device than Apple Inc.’s iPad, which kicked-started the tablet market when it launched in April. The PlayBook will have a 17.8-cm screen, making it half the size of the iPad, and has a weight similar to the iPad’s. And unlike the iPad, it will have two cameras, front and back. RIM didn’t say what it would cost, but said it would be in the same range as the iPad, which starts at US$499. The PlayBook will be able to act as a second, larger screen for a BlackBerry phone, through a secure short-range wireless link. When the connection is severed — perhaps because the user walks away with the phone — no sensitive data like company emails are left on the tablet. Outside of Wi-Fi range, it will be able to pick up cellular service to access the web by linking to a BlackBerry. But the tablet will also work as a standalone device. RIM co-Chief Executive Jim Balsillie said its goal is to present the full web experience of a computer, including the ability to display Flash, Adobe Systems Inc.’s format for video and interactive material on the web. That means the tablet will be less dependent on third-party applications or “apps,” Balsillie said. “I don’t need to download a YouTube app if I’ve got YouTube on the web,” said Balsillie, who leads the company along with co-CEO Mike Lazaridis. Apple CEO Steve Jobs has resisted allowing Flash on any of the company’s mobile gadgets, arguing the software has too many bugs and sucks too much battery life.