Blackberry unveils Playbook to compete with Apple

Research In Motion unveiled a tablet computer aimed at business customers and high-end consumers, as it tries to gain a foothold in a fast-growing market dominated by Apple's iPad.

The new BlackBerry PlayBook has a seven-inch touchscreen, dual high-definition cameras, WiFi, Bluetooth - but needs to link with a BlackBerry smartphone to access a cellular network.

RIM on emphasised the PlayBook's "uncompromised" Web browsing experience - which, unlike the iPad, supports Adobe's widely-used Flash multimedia software - as well as the tablet's security.

The company expects to ship the device to corporate customers and developers in October, and to consumers starting early in 2011, meaning it will miss a crucial sales window in the holiday buying season. In the meantime, many competing tablets are expected to hit the market.

The smartphone maker also did not reveal how much it would charge for the PlayBook, and pricing could be an important factor in its adoption.

MKM Partners analyst Pablo Perez-Fernandez said he was initially sceptical about the tablet, but said key PlayBook features could help it stand apart from the iPad.

"We think this was a positive surprise, they did a good job of integrating it with the handset," said Perez-Fernandez, who has a buy rating on RIM.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company has recently struggled to impress investors and analysts, who mostly shrugged off the August launch of its Torch smartphone, and fretted about eroding support among its core corporate clientele.

While RIM is pitching the PlayBook as the evolution of its corporate heritage, its hopes the powerful processor and media offerings lure consumers too.

"They talk enterprise but this will get bought by individuals and used for business," IDC analyst Stephen Drake said from the floor of the presentation.

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