RIM Adds PlayBook Tablets

HSPA+ and LTE versions of the BlackBerry Playbook tab join the WiMax version that Research In Motion previously announced for Sprint.
RIM Playbook Enterprise Tablet
(click image for larger view)
RIM Playbook Enterprise Tablet

RIM's PlayBook tablet will have 4G well covered. Eventually, RIM already announced in January that it is building a WiMax version of the PlayBook tablet for Sprint. The company on Monday revealed that it is making an LTE (Long Term Evolution) version and an HSPA+ version, too. RIM did not, however, provide details on which networks it will be supporting with these new PlayBook tablet variants.

While Verizon Wireless is the biggest LTE provider in the U.S., AT&T is set to debut LTE later this year. Is the LTE Playbook for Verizon or AT&T? Similarly, T-Mobile has a fast HSPA+ network, but so does AT&T. Right now, it is reasonable to assume that the LTE version will be for Verizon Wireless and the HSPA+ version will head to AT&T.

(If RIM is really smart, it will make the HSPA+ variant with support for 850/900/1700/1900/2100MHz spectrum, meaning it can be used on HSPA+ networks the world over -- including both AT&T and T-Mobile USA.)

"The BlackBerry PlayBook tablet is already being widely recognized for its superior performance, rich Web experience, enterprise readiness, and deep support for Web standards and open development tools. We are now building on the BlackBerry PlayBook's many advantages with support for additional 4G networks that will allow enhanced business opportunities for carriers and developers and unparalleled mobile experiences for users," said Mike Lazaridis, president and co-CEO at Research In Motion, in a prepared statement.

With the addition of these two variants, RIM will soon offer four different PlayBook models. They will debut in the second half of the year. The Wi-Fi-only version of the PlayBook is set to arrive in the coming weeks.

Adding these extra radios is a vital move if RIM wants its tablet to sell well. RIM's PlayBook will be hitting the market at a time when a number of slate-style devices have debuted, including the LG G Slate, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, the Motorola Xoom, the HP TouchPad, and the Apple iPad 2. Some of these tablets have radio limitations. The LG Slate is headed to T-Mobile only, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 to AT&T, and the Motorola Xoom to Verizon Wireless, for example. With only one distribution channel for 3G/4G connectivity, these tablet a a slightly more limited appeal.

Offering business and consumer users alike more choice of wireless broadband networks will help RIM differentiate its product offering from the competition.