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RIM's PlayBook Goes On Sale April 19

Research In Motion's tablet mirrors Apple's iPad pricing, but has limitations, notably email access is supported only when tethered to a BlackBerry.

RIM is going head-to-head with Apple when it comes to pricing with its PlayBook tablet. The PlayBook comes in three versions, each with a different storage capacity. They exactly match the iPad's at $499 for 16 GB, $599 for 32 GB, and $699 for 64 GB.

It will be available starting April 19 from all Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile stores. Those from the U.S. interested in the PlayBook can pre-order starting Tuesday. It will also be sold at AT&T, Cbeyond, Cellular South, Cincinnati Bell, Office Depot, RadioShack,, Staples, Sprint, Verizon Wireless, and BlackBerry from Wireless Giant.

The version going on sale April 19 will be Wi-Fi only, and will not have any 3G/4G radios inside.

Want email on the PlayBook? It will only support email access when tethered (via Bluetooth) to a BlackBerry.

RIM believes its model is going to work, especially where security is concerned. "CIO's are excited about the PlayBook because they understand this security model," Alec Taylor, RIM's vice president of product marketing for business alliance, said in an interview. How is the PlayBook secure? Well, there's no corporate data actually stored on the device. A BlackBerry is required for full enterprise support. Without one, the PlayBook has no enterprise access.

"On its own, this is a great standalone tablet," said Ryan Bidan, a RIM senior product manager in charge of the PlayBook, in an interview with Forbes. "This is not a device that is reliant on a BlackBerry." While it doesn't rely on a BlackBerry for most other features, leaving out personal information management is a big gaping hole.

"Some people view tablets as an extension of the mobile experience," continued Bidan. "Some think it's an extension of the laptop experience. We want to build a platform that meets both of those needs."

Versions of the PlayBook with cellular radios will not become available until later this year. The only commitment we have is from Sprint, which said a WiMax version of the PlayBook will hit store shelves thus summer.

The PlayBook's competitors, such as the iPad, Xoom, HTC View 4G, Samsung Tab, and others, all support email without the need for a smartphone.

"The BlackBerry PlayBook is an amazing tablet that is already being widely praised as a multi-tasking powerhouse with an uncompromised web experience and an ultra-portable design," said Mike Lazaridis, president & co-CEO of Research In Motion, in a prepared statement. "Given the high level of customer interest in the BlackBerry PlayBook, we are particularly pleased to be working with such an amazing lineup of retail partners."

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