BlackBerry reveals plans for 4G tablet PC

Research in Motion says Playbook will include the same encryption as phones

Research in Motion announced at the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that a 4G version of its upcoming Playbook tablet PC will be coming to the Sprint network this summer.

The BlackBerry 4G Playbook will operate on Sprint's WiMax 4G technology and also have Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n connectivity. It will be run on a dual-core processor and built on QNX Neutrino microkernel architecture. RIM bought QNX last year and has put the acquisition to good use building its tablet, which will run a completely separate operating system from any BlackBerry phone.

”We are excited to bring this powerful new product to our business customers and consumers who rely on Sprint for industry-leading devices as well as one of the best values in wireless,” said Steve Elfman, president of network operations and wholesale for Sprint in a press release. “This tablet is a great example of Sprint’s strong partnership with RIM in continuing to bring customers powerful devices to enhance their mobility. We are confident the BlackBerry 4G PlayBook from Sprint will be one of the most anticipated tablets in 2011.”

Related coverage:

The wait goes on for BlackBerry's tablet PC

According to a post from GigaOm, there will be no built-in 3G support for the 4G playbook, meaning that when the device is not in a WiMax 4G territory it will only be able to be used via Wi-Fi. The only way around that will be for a user to tether it to a BlackBerry 3G phone. "The core apps like mail, contacts and such won’t work in stand-alone mode with just the tablet, meaning, you’ll essentially need a BlackBerry to use the PlayBook," Kevin Tofel from GigaOm wrote.

GigaOm reviewed the tablet and found that overall there are things to like about the device, especially its support of Flash 10.1 to view multimedia. Tofel attributes that to QNX, a company that has worked diligently to integrate Flash into its product before being purchased by RIM.

"A dual-core processor helps, but QNX’s history may have more to do with it," Tofel wrote. "Flash on QNX was previously used in automobiles for digital instrumentation, entertainment and navigation systems: and in cars, having those kinds of apps crash isn’t good. So the company invested much effort to get Flash nearly bulletproof on it’s QNX platform."

The Playbook is also built to play nice with a variety of other formats, which makes it a good tablet for developers. According to RIM, the Playbook will be compatible with: WebKit/HTML-5, Adobe Flash Player 10.1, Adobe Mobile AIR, Adobe Reader, POSIX, OpenGL and Java.

Though the Playbook 4G is coming to Sprint this summer, earlier versions of the tablet are expected by April or May. RIM has said that the tablet will feature BlackBerry's standard encryption and should be secure enough for use by federal agencies and security-minded enterprises almost straight out of the box.

About the Author

Dan Rowinski is a staff reporter covering communications technologies.


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