RIM PlayBook Tablet Available For Under $500 In Early 2011

Given the success of Apple’s iPad, we all knew that competition was inevitable. Now, the floodgates are starting to open.

Research in Motion Ltd., maker of the business-popular BlackBerry, says that its PlayBook tablet will be available for purchase in North America in the first quarter of next year. The new tablet will sport a price tag under $500, which makes it serious price competitor to the iPad (the least expensive new iPad currently costs $499).

The PlayBook’s 7-inch screen is smaller than the iPad’s screen, but is the same size as the new Android-powered Galaxy from Samsung. In addition to its more hand-friendly size, the PlayBook has some features that the iPad lacks. The most notable feature difference is the ability to pair the device with a BlackBerry handset; after pairing the two devices, the phone’s content can be seen on the tablet’s larger screen.

The PlayBook features two cameras, placed similarly to the iPhone 4’s cameras.  The one that faces the user can also be used for video chatting,  similar to Apple’s Facetime feature. PlayBook also has a HDMI port, which allows video streaming from the device to a high-definition television.  Finally, the tablet has built in flash support, a feature notably absent from iPad.

RIM did not design the PlayBook as an “iPad clone”. Rather, they plan to market the device to large businesses, particularly those in which the IT staff controls buying for large groups of employees . Although we all know that iPad can be useful for business, it has been marketed as a consumer device, leaving RIM a niche to fill in the business world.

RIM has announced that they plan to eventually release 3G versions of the PlayBook.  However, they have not yet announced agreements with any phone carriers, nor have they given a time frame for this release.