RIM to launch LTE, HSPA+ PlayBook tablets by year-end

The two models will join a Wi-Fi version and one with Wi-Fi and WiMax that the company plans to begin selling next month

Research In Motion (RIM) announced plans for two new versions of its PlayBook tablet at the World Mobile Congress on Monday -- although it hasn't even begun selling the two models it has already announced. PlayBooks for LTE (Long-Term Evolution) and 3G HSPA+ networks and will go on sale by the end of year, joining the Wi-Fi and WiMax models that RIM plans to begin selling next month.

Both of the devices announced Monday will also support Bluetooth tethering, connection to mobile hotspots via smartphones or other portable devices acting as a Wi-Fi hotspots, and BlackBerry Bridge, which is software that allows use of features such as Messenger and E-mail from a BlackBerry Device on a PlayBook.

RIM didn't say which network operators will support the new models.

RIM still hasn't released two other PlayBooks models, one that supports Wi-Fi and another with Wi-Fi and WiMax. In December, the company said it was still working on optimizing battery life for the PlayBook, and during the company's Dec. 16 earnings call, RIM executives said the PlayBook would not go on sale until the end of next month.

In other announcements, RIM said it is expanding its BlackBerry App World to 27 new countries and areas. The store has applications for devices with a trackball, trackpad or touch screen using its 4.5 operating system or higher.

The countries and areas are Azerbaijan, Botswana Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, French Guyana, Greece, Guadeloupe, Hungary, Iceland, Kenya, La Réunion, Latvia, Macedonia, Malta, Martinique, Nigeria, Norway, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and Tanzania.

RIM is also making plans for BlackBerry App World that will allow subscribers to buy airtime, applications and other services for another subscriber on their prepaid or post-paid accounts. The mobile gifting platform will use BlackBerry Messenger, which will be integrated into operator and App World billing systems, RIM said. The company didn't say when it will be available.

In other news, RIM said Telefónica will begin billing customers for applications from App World, directly on their mobile phone bill, saving users from needing to enter billing information via the App World portal. Telefónica owns brands such as O2 in the U.K. and has 280 million customers in 25 countries, making it a major presence in Europe and Latin America.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com

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Jeremy Kirk

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