March 22, 2011

RIM’s PlayBook Tablet Hitting Store Shelves April 19

Research In Motion will start selling its BlackBerry PlayBook tablet computer in the U.S. and Canada on April 19.

RIM said on Tuesday that customers can start pre-ordering the device through Best Buy.  The PlayBook will be available for $499 to $699 and will feature a 7-inch touch screen.

"Tablets are becoming a bigger part of our business everyday and the launch of the BlackBerry PlayBook will heighten the level of excitement in this category," Scott Anderson, head of merchandising for Best Buy Mobile, said in a statement.

The tablet computer runs BlackBerry software and can connect to a phone, acting as a bigger screen for it.  RIM said that it is the first "professional-grade tablet."

The PlayBook will be sold in 20,000 retail outlets, including AT&T, Verizon, Radioshack, Sears Canada, Wal-Mart and Best Buy. 

James Cordwell, an analyst at Atlantic Equities in London, told Reuters that RIM will be chasing Apple.

"Everywhere else in the world there is pretty much no other choice but the iPad 2, as of this Friday. Half of the tablet market is overseas," he said.

The new device by RIM will be capable of streaming high-definition video to a television screen through an HDMI cable.

"The price may be high but RIM have a unique advantage in the Playbook's positioning as a companion device that addresses an existing customer base," CCS Insight's Geoff Blaber told Reuters.

"The big question is the Playbook's appeal to those not already part of the BlackBerry world."

Apple sold about 15 million iPads in nine months in 2010, which is two or three times as many as analysts predicted.  The company predicted it will sell 30 million or more this year, which would generate close to $20 billion.

Scotia Capital analyst Gus Papageorgiou told Reuters that the expansive distribution network could boost PlayBook 2011 sales to over 7.3 million in North America alone.


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