After weeks of slow leaks and rumors, Research In Motion
Kill the iPad?
In a word, no. The two devices appear to be aimed at very different target markets. The iPad is largely a toy -- a very capable toy with a large assortment of productivity tools available for download, but still designed mostly to titillate and entertain. The PlayBook comes with BlackBerry-style security and business tools built in; it is also smaller and more likely to find its way into double-breasted business suit pockets.
Besides, the PlayBook is scheduled to be available in "early 2011," which makes today's announcement nothing more than a paper launch. The iPad's head start grows larger day by day, and that first-mover advantage is very important in a trend-sensitive market like this new tablet computer craze.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab stands a greater chance of making an impact on the iPad's dominance by dint of launching earlier with a comparable feature list. But then, that tablet runs the Android operating system, placing it squarely in between the work-oriented BlackBerry demographic and the leisurely Apple gang. There's no telling whether that distinction will make the Galaxy Tab a threat to both of those camps or neither one.
What's inside the black box?
Still, it's safe to assume that CrackBerry addicts will storm in to snatch up their PlayBooks at launch, and there's still a good number of them running around. The device will sport a 7-inch screen with front-and-back video cameras and a very capable video subsystem. An unspecified dual-core processor running at 1GHz makes this a heavyweight in terms of raw power. But I think we can figure out who makes that processor.
Dual-core ARM chips slated to be available before the launch date include an updated Qualcomm
These are all very capable choices, but Marvell and RIM have history together that makes some version of the Armada line the logical pick. If I wanted to buy a chipmaker based on the PlayBook selling like hot grits, Marvell would be my first choice with Qualcomm perhaps playing second string.
All work and no play ...
The iPad was clearly on RIM's mind as it designed this tablet: The press release takes a nice, oblique swipe at Apple: "The BlackBerry PlayBook solidly hits the mark with industry leading power, true multitasking, uncompromised web browsing and high performance multimedia," says co-CEO Mike Lazardis [emphasis mine].
If Apple ever decides to invite Adobe Systems
This device is "Perfect for either large organizations or an 'army of one'," and features include both "advanced security" and "out-of-the-box enterprise support." The darn thing shares the fundamentals of its operating system with the largest routers Cisco Systems
Where do I go now?
It'll take a lot of tablets to move the needle for RIM, but this product launch would be a very significant revenue driver and general business catalyst for Marvell if I'm right about the processor supply chain. The company has not had a lot of luck selling high-end processors in real volume, but this could be the product that finally kick-starts the Marvell Armada invasion.
Do you see any other way to invest in this device launch without exposing yourself to the dwindling importance of BlackBerry smartphones? Feel free to share your insights in the comments below.
Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Apple, Adobe Systems, and NVIDIA are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. The Fool has written calls (Bull Call Spread) on Cisco Systems. The Fool owns shares of Apple, Marvell Technology Group, and QUALCOMM. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.
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