More from CES: Blackberry PlayBook enters the battle of the 4G tablets
Unlike the big splash events from competitors such as Motorola and Apple, the roll out of Research in Motion’s PlayBook tablet (RIM) has been more of a slow drip… drip… drip. The PlayBook was first announced to attendees of the company’s DEVCON developer conference in September last year. As recently as December, at the “Meet The PlayBook” event in San Francisco (co-sponsored by Adobe), the on-stage demo was as close as application developers could get to the device.
So, when I saw the PlayBook literally under glass at a press event on CES Press Day last Wednesday, I had to wonder if it was real. This was a curious marketing strategy, given that the Motorola XOOM was available live and uncaged for demos and closeup views at the same event. RIM had also announced earlier that day that PlayBook would be equipped with 4G WiMAX for Sprint’s network. Usually the press gets an advanced peek before the show opening, so why not the PlayBook?
Maybe RIM was just building up the anticipation. When CES finally opened on Thursday, you couldn’t get anywhere close to the PlayBook demo stations. They had some of the largest crowds that I saw at the show, drawn by a series of on-stage appearances by people who were apparently celebrities, although I didn’t recognize a single one of them. (Sorry Adrian Grenier, Piers Morgan, and Olivia Wilde… I don’t have a clue who any of you are).
I had a briefing with QNX scheduled for Friday afternoon. You may be aware that QNX is a leading provider of embedded real-time operating systems (RTOS), and I was interested in hearing about their BMW ConnectedDrive® system, which they were demonstrating in a shiny new Z4. QNX was acquired by RIM last year, and they subsequently developed the operating system for the PlayBook. My QNX meeting then presented a great opportunity for a 1-on-1 demo of the PlayBook by the QNX Product Marketing Manager. Once again, my HD Flip mino did a great job of capturing the demo. The audio clarity in the recording is actually better than what I experienced live in the QNX booth on the very loud CES show floor. Video clarity could be better, but those convention center lights on the reflective screen make it difficult.
During the demo, I was able to learn that the application processor in the PlayBook is the Texas Instruments OMAP 4430, a dual-core ARM Cortex A9 with an Imagination GPU. Performance was just as impressive as the Motorola XOOM, which uses the NVIDIA Tegra-2, also based on Cortex A9.
RIM has a long way to go to compete effectively with the Android ecosystem, but the move to 4G with WiMAX is a smart differentiator. The Motorola XOOM will be on Verizon’s 4G LTE, as will Samsung’s Galaxy tablet. What will Apple do to keep up? I think we just might find out tomorrow at Verizon’s post-CES press event in New York.
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