Research in Motion, the maker of the popular BlackBerry devices unveiled the BlackBerry PlayBook, a seven-inch tablet that will be released early next year.

RIM has yet to reveal many of the details surrounding the Playbook -- most importantly, the price -- and no one has had a hands-on demonstration yet, but there are enough details out to help those on the fence decide whether or not they should wait to buy the Playbook. The device is up against some stiff competition. Apple's iPad currently dominate the market, while new entrants like Samsung's Galaxy Tab and Dell's Streak are giving consumers even more options. From what we know now, here's how the PlayBook measures up:



Pricing: RIM hasn't officially announced a price for the PlayBook, but that hasn't stopped analysts from jumping in with their predictions -- and right now, they're all over the place. John Jackson, an analyst at CCS Insight puts the price of the BlackBerry PlayBook at around $300 to $350, while Eric Lai of ZDNet speculates that we may see a list price of as high as $999 to $1,500 since the PlayBook is being billed as a business tablet. It's more likely that we'll see a price of $599 to $699 as suggested by Harry McCracken of Technologizer, which would be closer to the iPad's $499 price tag.

Size: The PlayBook's display screen is 7 inches, making it smaller and lighter than the iPad (which has a 9-inch screen). Yet, it's around the same size as the Samsung Galaxy and a tad larger than the Dell Streak.

Features:
The PlayBook, iPad and the various Android tablets all allow users to surf the web, check email and sync a calendar. So while they are all very similar when it comes to the basics, there are some differences. For example, the PlayBook supports Flash (so does the Galaxy Tab), something that the iPad does not do. This means that users will be able to visit web sites that use Flash, as well as access games and video, without the need for a special app.

Internet connection: This is probably the biggest downfall of the PlayBook. While it will have Wi-Fi web access, it won't have its own 3G Internet connection like the iPad WiFi + 3G models. Instead, the device will need to be hooked up (or tethered) to a BlackBerry smart phone in order to get a faster connection. This may make pricing more friendly, but we'll have to wait and see.

Apps: It's all about the apps these days. We don't know which apps will be available for the PlayBook yet, but company representatives have touted the use of Flash as a way to avoid the need for specific apps to run on the PlayBook. When it does launch in 2011 it will likely be with a small pool of apps compared to the over 200,000 available in the iPad app store. You can bet developers will scurry to make up some of the ground on that front.

So, should you buy the BlackBerry PlayBook? If you're an average person looking for a tablet this holiday season there's no really compelling reason to wait for the PlayBook's debut. The PlayBook could prove to be amazing -- in five to six months. but for many people eager to get their hands on a tablet, the wait may not be worth it. If you continue to wait for the "next big thing" you'll never actually get the device and enjoy it. For loyal BlackBerry users, waiting for the arrival of the PlayBook may prove worthwhile.

If you want an even more detailed comparison of the tablets available we suggest you look at Engadget's BlackBerry PlayBook vs. iPad vs. Galaxy Tab vs. Streak: the tale of the tape, which really digs into the nitty gritty of each device.


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