RIM Sets 7” BlackBerry PlayBook at $499, Shows Specs

Research In Motion announced pricing and specs for its 7” BlackBerry PlayBook tablet on Tuesday. The company said it will sell the device on April 19th starting at US$499, the same starting price as Apple’s much larger iPad 2. RIM announced the tablet in late 2010, but hadn’t yet announced pricing or availability.

BlackBerry PlayBook runs a new OS called BlackBerry Tablet OS based on technology acquired when RIM bought QNX Software Systems early in 2010. The device is built from the ground up to fit into Enterprise environments, just like the company’s once market-leading BlackBerry smartphones.

While the device is markedly smaller than iPad and iPad 2, as well as competing Android tablets like Motorola’s Xoom (when PlayBook was first unveiled, the 7” form factor was all the rage for dozens of Android tablets that were being announced, but mostly never shipped). It outdoes the iPad 2, however, in the amount of RAM it features — PlayBook has 1GB, while iPad 2 has 512MB.

RIM has also crowed far and wide that the PlayBook offers “uncompromised Web browsing,” referring to the fact that it supports Adobe’s Flash technology, where Apple’s iOS devices notoriously do not. RIM has also bested the iPad 2 by making both cameras on the device 1080p HD cameras. iPad 2 has a VGA camera in front and a 720p camera on the back.

The question for the company will be whether customers care enough for Flash and HD cameras to pay the same amount for a 7” device with few apps as they would for Apple’s ubiquitous iPad 2 (the original iPad is $100 less) and the market-defining App Store.

PlayBook is one of the few iPad-competitors to match Apple’s pricing*, but the company had to make its device much smaller than the iPad to do so. This goes to once again emphasize how Apple’s ability to lock up components and do volume production gives it an amazing pricing advantage over its competitors.

BlackBerry PlayBook

BlackBerry PlayBook

PlayBook Specs:

  • 7” 1024x600 WSVGA capacitive LCD touch screen
  • Ultra-portable at less than a pound and less than one-half inch thick: 0.9 lbs (425g) and 5.1” x 7.6” x 0.4” (130mm x 194mm x 10mm)
  • 1 GHz dual-core processor
  • BlackBerry® Tablet OS with support for symmetric multiprocessing
  • MP3, AAC and WMA audio playback
  • Support for high resolution video playback (H.264, MPEG4, WMV)
  • 1080p HDMI output
  • Dual 1080p HD cameras for video conferencing and video capture (3MP front and 5MP rear)
  • 1 GB RAM memory
  • Up to 64 GB internal storage (16, 32 and 64 GB models)
  • GPS, Orientation Sensor (Accelerometer), 6-Axis Motion Sensor (Gyroscope), Digital Compass (Magnetometer)
  • Stereo speakers and stereo microphones
  • Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n) connectivity
  • Bluetooth 2.1+EDR support

* Motrola’s Xoom will soon start at $599 for a 32GB WiFi-only model that matches the 32GB iPad 2.