So why is the arrival of the PlayBook significant news for the customer publishing sector? Here's a brief explanation of why branded content providers need to keep an eye on the PlayBook.
First the basics:
How big is it - The PlayBook sports a seven inch screen. That's a few inches smaller than the iPad but the same size as the well received Samsung Galaxy Tab.
Does it have the same operating system as BlackBerry phones? - No it uses the QNX system which is significantly more powerful than the OS that runs existing BlackBerry devices. There is some speculation that in the future BlackBerry phones will also run QNX .
How is it different to the iPad? - In spite of its name the PlayBook is an enterprise focused device. So, for example, it will come with some smart features such as the ability to run two screens simultaneously off the device. This is perfect for making presentations. Users hook a projector up to show slides, while reading notes off the tablet itself. Unlike the iPad the PlayBook also includes a pair of integrated cameras. This makes the device ideal for video conferencing.
Apps for the iPad won't work on the device. BlackBerry has its own app eco system and RIM expects to see new apps developed for the PlayBook.
Lastly, unlike some versions of the iPad, the PlayBook doesn't have a 3G connection - it only uses Wi-Fi. If you're out of Wi-Fi range, you'll be able to pair your BlackBerry smartphone (via Bluetooth) to get online. RIM has said that future PlayBooks will include 3G connections.
Can it make phone calls? - Nope. The main communication method is video calling over Wi-Fi.
Can I buy one now? - No. It will go on sale in early 2011. The early gossip is that it will cost around £400 if subsidised by a mobile phone network.
Why is this a big story for customer publishers? It is good news for branded content providers who want to produce digital magazines that work with tablet PCs for two reasons.
1. It will increase the number of tablet PCs that are available. RIM's ace card is that millions of BlackBerrys are used by companies across the globe. They are devices that corporate IT departments feel comfortable with. There's a clear pitch already to companies who have BlackBerrys for their staff. The enterprise features mean the PlayBook will be very attractive to people who regularly make presentations. It is likely to be a huge success.
2. It runs HTML5 - HTML5 is the next generation standard for structuring and presenting content on the web. It is the coding language favoured by Apple and is the standard that is used by some of the most high profile iPad magazines such as Sports Illustrated (others use versions of Adobe's Flash system). If the Playbook is a success like the iPad then it will strengthen the case for publishers providing content in the HTML5 format.