BlackBerry PlayBook specs released. But how much does it cost?

BlackBerry PlayBook, the new tablet computer from RIM, should hit the market in early 2011.

BlackBerry Playbook, the new tablet computer from RIM,

After a short flurry of blog buzz build-up, the BlackBerry PlayBook – the latest entrant in the widening tablet race – was unveiled this week by RIM.

According to RIM, the first iteration of the PlayBook will not include 3G or 4G support, although the company "intends" to offer that functionality down the line. Instead, PlayBook users will connect to the Web via a Wi-Fi antenna or by tethering the tablet – via Bluetooth – with a BlackBerry handset.

RIM says the PlayBook will hit shelves in the US in early 2011. The company did not specify an exact price point, although analysts are predicting that the tablet will retail for between $300 and $500.

"RIM set out to engineer the best professional-grade tablet in the industry with cutting-edge hardware features and one of the world's most robust and flexible operating systems," RIM exec Mike Lazaridis said in a statement. "The BlackBerry PlayBook solidly hits the mark with industry leading power, true multitasking, uncompromised web browsing and high performance multimedia."

Standard PR talk right there, yes, but Lazaridis is right about one thing: The BlackBerry PlayBook sounds like it packs a punch. RIM says the machine will run the new BlackBerry Tablet operating system on a 1 GHz dual-core processor; in addition, the machine gets front- and rear-facing cameras (both HD), Flash support, a 7-inch screen, and a HDMI-out port for linking up content with external displays.

The BlackBerry PlayBook will have more than its fair share of competition. There's the best-selling iPad, of course, and then there's the Samsung Galaxy Tab, a long-awaited Android-powered tablet computer. Samsung says the Galaxy Tab will launch with a 7-inch display, front- and rear-facing cameras, a 1GHz Hummingbird processor, Flash 10.1 support, the "Media Hub" content platform, and Android 2.2.

Better yet, the Galaxy Tab will be sold by four wireless carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. Unfortunately – as in the case of the BlackBerry PlayBook – Samsung still has not slapped a price on the Galaxy Tab. In September, several bloggers stumbled across a posting on Amazon UK which appeared to show an extremely high price for the Galaxy Tab, but Samsung says the price will probably be closer to $300.

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