TORONTO (Reuters) - Research In Motion’s PlayBook tablet computer hit North American shelves on Tuesday, joining a market dominated by two versions of Apple’s iPad and filling quickly with other contenders, including a slew of devices running Google’s Android software.
Downbeat critics zoomed in on the PlayBook’s reliance on an existing BlackBerry for full functionality.
Below are some questions and answers about the PlayBook.
* How much does it cost?
* RIM has mimicked Apple’s WiFi-only iPad pricing; $499 for 16GB of storage, $599 for 32GB and $699 for 64GB.
* Do I need a BlackBerry to make the most of PlayBook?
* In a word, yes. The first version does not have its own cellular connection, relying on WiFi to access the Internet.
The PlayBook “bridges” with a BlackBerry through a secure Bluetooth connection to access corporate email, address book, calendar and other features including BlackBerry Messenger. When the link is broken, the data disappears.
RIM set up this relationship to pitch PlayBook to security-conscious corporations and governments that will not need to verify the PlayBook’s credentials. Avoiding a cellular connection also speeds deployment into the space.
An upgrade some time after launch will add email, calendar and address book apps for those without a BlackBerry.
* Will it get its own cellular connection later?
* Yes. RIM will release radio-enabled versions later this year for high-speed WiMax, LTE and HSPA+ networks. These will connect to RIM’s enterprise servers if a company desires.
* Worth buying a PlayBook if I do not own a BlackBerry?
* Difficult to say. The PlayBook’s tech specs are impressive, but some have been matched by other devices in the market since its September unveiling. It should have 3,000 apps at launch, compared to the 65,000 designed for the iPad.
* What are the technical specifications? Why do I care?
* The PlayBook is powered by a 1 GHz dual-core processor from Texas Instruments and 1 GB RAM system memory. It has a 7-inch touchscreen, front and rear cameras and weighs in at 425g, or just under a pound.
It runs an all-new BlackBerry Tablet OS, powered by the QNX Neutrino kernel, and multitasking has been heavily promoted.
It supports Adobe’s Flash, prevalent on today’s Web, as well as HTML5, which will one day replace it. The iPad does not support Flash; Android’s tablet software does. RIM will run emulators to allow Android and BlackBerry phone apps to be run on the tablet.
Add all this together and the PlayBook offers powerful mobile computing with a snappy user interface.
* Anything else I should know?
* The borders of the screen are touch-sensitive. Swipe up from the bottom to minimize what you’re doing, down to access in-app options, and from left or right to toggle between applications. A gesture from the bottom left corner brings up the virtual keyboard.
It comes with a full suite of editable word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software, plus Electronic Arts’ car-racing game Need For Speed: Undercover.
Reporting by Alastair Sharp; editing by Janet Guttsman