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RIM's new 3G BlackBerry PlayBook proves it has lost touch with consumers

Canadian telecoms firm Research in Motion (RIM) has finally launched a 3G version of its 7in BlackBerry PlayBook mini-tablet in the UK.

The announcement that the device is now available to purchase on a "product order on demand" basis, according to retailer, means that interested parties should be able to get their hands on the product in time for Christmas 2012.

In addition to built-in 3G connectivity, the new BB PlayBook model has upped its standard on-board storage from 16GB to 32GB, and now offers an improved dual-core processor clocked at 1.5GHz (vs. a 1GHz clock speed on the Wi-Fi-only PlayBook).

The rest of the tweaked BlackBerry tablet's key specifications line up the same as older, Wi-Fi only models, with the device featuring an LCD screen with a resolution of 1,024 x 600, a 5-megapixel primary camera with HD video, a 3-megapixel front snapper, and a 5,300 mAh battery.

However, the latest iteration of the PlayBook also sports something considerably less desirable: a ludicrous £400+ price tag.

Out of touch

Given that Currys is currently offering a Wi-Fi-only 16GB PlayBook for just over £100, and the old-gen tablet's RRP was just £170 to begin with, it's a pretty unbelievable mark-up for the addition of cellular connectivity, some extra on-board storage, and a slightly faster processor - and one that shows just how out of touch RIM is with the consumer electronics market these days.

Call me a miser, but I just don't see how a few minor improvements - headlined by compatibility with a cellular spectrum (3G) that has now been supplanted at the top of the pile by 4G LTE - adds up to a £425 asking price.

A comparable 32GB, 3G-ready version of Google's Nexus 7 – also newly released – runs to just £200. That Google-Asus aril, it's worth noting, features quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 architecture, not to mention the popular Android Jelly Bean operating system.

In marginal mitigation, Apple attaches a £449 tag to the 32GB 3G model of its iPad mini - but then the Cupertino-based firm is arguably the world's most iconic electronics manufacturer and its tablet line is the most popular in existence.

Moreover, since RIM announced it would be launching a 4G LTE PlayBook on its new BB10 operating system (presumably in 2013 given the delays faced by the OS), the extremely enthusiastic pricing of the 3G model makes us wonder just how much next year's refresh will set buyers back.

Danger zone

Maybe RIM fears that gigabytes are the digital world's equivalent of the Northern Right Whale and are near to extinction. Or perhaps the "beleaguered" tag frequently applied to the Canadian company is simply too kind - based on its most recent PlayBook proposition, active death-wisher seems to be closer to the truth.

Whatever the case, it's unlikely that the new 3G BlackBerry PlayBook is going to find its way under too many festive trees this year. The real endangered species here is RIM, and its product strategy is incomprehensible yet again.