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RIM Working On Bigger BlackBerry PlayBook

Research In Motion's PlayBook tablet may have a 10-inch sibling by the holiday season.

RIM BlackBerry PlayBook Teardown
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: RIM BlackBerry PlayBook Teardownr
The PlayBook launched just a few weeks ago, and already word of a follow-up device is making the rounds. Multiple sources have informed blog Boy Genius Report that RIM plans to offer a 10-inch version of the PlayBook before the end of the year.

The PlayBook has a seven-inch display, something that RIM's CEOs touted as a major benefit over other, larger devices (namely the Apple iPad). Back in December 2010, co-CEO Mike Lazaridis said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal's Walter Mossberg and Kara Swisher, "It's just the perfect size." He admitted, when prodded, that RIM is also working to develop different sized tablets, but he didn't specify what sizes.

Given Lazaridis comments from December, the reports of a 10-inch device by year's end are certainly plausible. By then, RIM should have updated the QNX-based PlayBook OS significantly enough that it can serve as a stand-alone product. It has already indicated that native email, calendar, and contacts are coming to the PlayBook this summer, as is the ability to run Android apps on the PlayBook.

Just this week, RIM provided a significant update to the PlayBook that adds Facebook and video chatting.

Will a larger screen and updated software make a big difference? There appear to be two different camps of tablet devices emerging: those with seven-inch displays and those with 10-inch displays. Each has benefits and trade-offs. The seven-inch devices are generally lighter and smaller, but the reduced screen real estate makes some activities, such as typing, more difficult. The 10-inch devices are larger, bulkier, heavier, but the added screen real estate makes interacting with applications and content easier.

The PlayBook is, somewhat surpisingly, off to a decent start with respect to sales. First-week numbers are said to be at about 100,000. Excitement over the PlayBook at RIM's BlackBerry World conference in Orlando this week was palpable, despite the device's limitations. It was a major focal point for the event, and RIM's leadership was happy to talk about its capabilities.

In a surprise move, RIM decided to give all 6,000 attendees a PlayBook (valued at $499). That means RIM wants its best partners and customers to take the PlayBook back to their businesses and show them off. It is a good tactic, as it might lead to enterprise sales down the road.

What RIM didn't talk about was when we can expect to see PlayBooks with cellular data radios inside. Sprint has announced that it will offer a WiMax-equipped variant of the PlayBook at some point later this year. Sprint also plans to sell the Wi-Fi-only version. There's been no confirmed word from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless whether there will be versions made for their 3G/4G networks. RIM would be crazy to leave 3G/4G out of the PlayBook entirely, but at least the initial wave of adopters don't seem too concerned with the Wi-Fi limitations of the device.

Apple's iPad offers 3G support for both AT&T and Verizon Wireless, the Samsung Galaxy Tab supports 3G for all four major carriers, the Motorola Xoom supports 3G for Verizon Wireless (and will get 4G eventually), and the LG G-Slate supports 4G for T-Mobile. RIM will have to offer 3G/4G at some point to better compete with these devices.

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