BlackBerry PlayBook to sell for under $US500: iPad beware!

Research In Motion plans to undercut Apple's iPad pricing when its PlayBook tablet launches next year

BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion (RIM) plans to undercut Apple's iPad pricing when its PlayBook tablet launches next year, according to a BusinessWeek report. The PlayBook will cost "under" $US500, as RIM prepares to tackle Apple's head start in the tablet market.

The starting price for an Apple iPad is $499 for a 16GB Wi-Fi-only model, and goes up to $829 for the 64GB Wi-Fi+3G version. But a RIM executive said in an interview on Wednesday that the PlayBook will be cheaper than the iPad, when the tablets starts shipping in North America sometime in the first quarter of 2011.

The iPad, which went on sale in April and sold over 4 million so far, created a new market for those who want a device between their laptops and smartphones. Six months after the iPad launched (nine since it was announced), RIM showed off the PlayBook, a BlackBerry-branded tablet aimed at competing with Apple's offering.

The PlayBook will have a smaller screen than the iPad (7-inch PlayBook versus 9.7-inch iPad), and there won't be a 3G option initially either (it will tether with BlackBerry phones instead). The screen resolution will be similar the iPad, meaning the PlayBook will pack more pixels per inch. The PlayBook will also have four times the amount of RAM memory of the iPad (1GB PlayBook versus 256MB iPad), and RIM also packed in two cameras (5MP back, 3MP front).

Like RIM's PlayBook, the iPad competitors all have smaller screens (7-inch displays). Apple CEO Steve Jobs argues that is because 7-inch displays are cheaper, and this would be the only way for other manufacturers to compete with the iPad on price. But the 7-inch Android Galaxy S tablet for example retails at Verizon stores for $599, which is just $30 less than the equivalent iPad, John Gruber explains. T-Mobile sells the Tab for $400, but only after a carrier subsidy, a $50 mail-in rebate, and a two-year contract attached.

RIM is pinning its hopes on the PlayBook, boasting one of its strengths as Adobe Flash support and AIR applications compatibility (Apple most certainly will not be introducing such functionality on the iPad). However, by the time the PlayBook comes out, RIM's tablet won't have to compete with the current iPad, but with the next iteration of Apple's tablet, something which could prove challenging for RIM's currently superior, yet not available product.

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Daniel Ionescu

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