First Look: BlackBerry PlayBook

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RIM has launched its iPad-rival, the BlackBerry Playbook, at the Adobe Max conference in Los Angeles. We got our first look at the device, and some insight into why RIM believes it can take on the iPad.

The Playbook is a 7-inch multi-touch tablet with a similar design to the iPad, but integrating RIMs BlackBerry services.

RIM has also taken a different approach to Adobe technology than Apple (which has pointedly refused to integrate Adobe Flash into its iOS devices). The PlayBook does not just feature Adobe Flash, but also integrates it throughout the system with Adobe Air technology being used to develop and power all the applications.

Adobe Air is the technology developed by Adobe to enable Flash apps to run offline.

As an incentive to encourage development for the platform, RIM is offering any developer who creates an app that is approved on the RIM store a free BlackBerry Playbook.

The BlackBerry Playbook also features true multi-tasking, with applications running in the background as the device is used. Switching between applications uses a system similar to the Application Switcher used in the iOS 4.1 update.

While some of the desktop interface looks similar to the iPad, especially with regards to the interface Apple uses to display photographs, a lot of the back end services (such as RIM security) provide enough differentiation behind the scenes to consider.

We caught up with Tyler Lessard, RIM's Vice President, Global Alliances and Developer Relations. He told us: "We've been talking about the PlayBook as a professional grade tablet."

This focus on the business may be what give's RIM differentiation between the Playbook and the iPad (not to mention the slew of other 7in tablets entering the market. It's a point that Lessard is keen to make: "We looked at the expectations of our power users. One of the things was a need and desire to rely on it on a day to day basis. They didn't want a product that they felt they'd leave behind and pick up once in a while. Bringing it in at that 7in form factor was important for that."

He notes that the 7in form factor is not for everybody. "You will see different device manufactures delivering different approaches depend on their approach to user experience." Steve Jobs on a recent conference call was dismissive of 7in tablets, stating that they we're "dead on arrival" and that the smaller screen size made typing difficult.

This story, "First Look: BlackBerry PlayBook" was originally published by Macworld U.K..

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