RIM unveils BlackBerry PlayBook

BlackBerry made the announcement everyone has been expecting last night, and launched its tablet - but it won't be using the name BlackPad as expected, instead opting for the moniker PlayBook.

The PlayBook, despite its name, goes back to BlackBerry's roots with a business-oriented offering designed to offer both larger organisations and one-man-band companies a device which has everything they need - and the push services for which the company became famous.

Speaking at the launch, president and co-CEO of Research In Motion Mike Lazaridis claimed that his company "set out to engineer the best professional-grade tablet in the industry with cutting-edge hardware features and one of the world's most robust and flexible operating systems. The BlackBerry PlayBook hits the mark with industry leading power, true multitasking, uncompromised web browsing, and high performance multimedia."

So, let's take a look at the specifications and see if Lazaridis is telling the truth.

Based around a seven-inch touch-screen, it's a more portable device than Apple's rival iPad - but that portability comes with a price, meaning that the 1024x600 display might feel cramped compared to the iPad. Behind the screen is the new BlackBerry Tablet OS - based on QNX, as we've reported previously - which gives the device its true multitasking functionality and opens it up for developers to start working on apps.

The device uses an un-named - but certainly ARM-based - dual-core 1GHz processor along with 1GB of RAM. Both front and rear-facing cameras are included - a 3MP unit on the front and a 5MP on the rear, with 1080p video recording included as standard.

Despite the device's business focus, there's certainly been consideration made as to its multimedia capabilities. With Flash 10.1 and HTML5 in the browser and support for playback of 1080p video in H.264, MPEG, DivX and WMV formats via a media player app it's a pretty impressive device - and the HDMI output means you can hook it up to a high-definition display, too.

Network connectivity is taken care of with an 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi card, and there will almost certainly be a 3G version at launch - although RIM is keeping that under wraps for now.

Physically, the PlayBook measures 130mm x 193mm x 10mm and weighs just 400g - significantly lighter than Apple's iPad, although much of that is probably due to the smaller display.

RIM is hoping to launch the BlackBerry PlayBook in the US in early 2011, with international roll-out to begin some time in the second quarter. Selected corporate customers and chosen developers, however, get the chance to play with it starting next month as the company completes early testing.

Pricing, unsurprisingly, wasn't on RIM's agenda for the announcement.

If you don't reckon you're on RIM's early-adopter list but can't wait to see what the BlackPad - sorry, PlayBook - is like in use, check out the video below.