It looks like RIM sees the Apple iPad as the primary competition for its forthcoming PlayBook BlackBerry tablet: a report in BusinessWeek has a RIM executive saying the PlayBook will cost less than $500 when it reaches consumers in the early part of 2011.
Apple’s entry-level iPad is available for $499, and comes with 16 GB of memory and Wi-Fi connectivity, with prices ranging up to $829 for a version with 64 GB of onboard storage and 3G mobile connectivity. RIM’s PlayBook will be based around a 7-inch touchscreen display (compared to the 10-inch display in all Apple iPads), and initial versions of the PlayBook won’t offer 3G mobile connectivity either: instead, they’ll tether up with users’ BlackBerry phones, making the proposition of taking the PlayBook mobile a multi-device, high-cost affair. (See Digital Trends’s comparison of PlayBook and iPad specs.)
However, by the time RIM’s PlayBook device comes to market, Apple’s iPad will have been available for sale for roughly a year—and that means the primary competition for the PlayBook isn’t likely to be the current iPad, but whatever Apple has up its sleeve for the device’s next iteration. Apple CEO Steve Jobs has argued that would-be competitors in the tablet market are focusing on 7-inch displays in part because going with less expensive, smaller displays lets them, better compete with the iPad’s price point; however, mobile tablets like the Android-based Galaxy Tab are also supported by subsidies from mobile operators. Of course, RIM is also hoping to differentiate the PlayBook on a technology basis: the PlayBook tablet will offer support for Adobe Flash and Adobe AIR technologies, neither of which are likely to appear in iPads or other iOS devices anytime soon.