BlackBerry PlayBook will challenge iPad on price

BlackBerry PlayBook, the new tablet computer from RIM, will be priced under $500, putting the device in direct competition with the Apple iPad.

BlackBerry PlayBook will be priced under $500, a RIM exec said today.

The BlackBerry PlayBook will sell for under $500, according to RIM exec Jim Balsillie, which would put the forthcoming PlayBook in direct competition with the Apple iPad. Balsillie dropped the news in an interview with Bloomberg today, promptly setting off a frenzy of speculation in the tech blogosphere – and causing RIM shares to surge 7.53 percent in afternoon trading.

The Apple iPad, which currently dominates the tablet computer market, sells at several different price points, from $499 for a basic Wi-Fi-capable device, to upwards of $800 for a 64GB machine with a 3G antenna. By pricing the PlayBook at under $500, RIM – quite smartly – is likely hoping to pick up casual users, who want a full-featured touch-screen device without all the associated sticker shock.

The PlayBook is expected to hit shelves early next year. The device won't include 3G or 4G support, although RIM says it "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. Among the other features on the PlayBook: a 1 GHz dual-core processor, front- and rear-facing cameras (both HD), and Flash support.

Of course, the PlayBook will face stiff competition on the tablet market. Besides the iPad, there is also the Samsung Galaxy Tab, and the HP Slate 500, a tablet computer designed to appeal to business consumers. HP has described the Slate 500 as the "ideal PC for professionals who don’t usually work at a traditional desk, yet need to stay productive in a secure, familiar Windows environment." The Slate 500 sells for $799.

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