More About That OS

By CIOinsight  |  Posted 09-27-2010

BlackBerry PlayBook Tablet Unveiled

Here's what the new BlackBerry PlayBook offers that the Apple iPad does not: multitasking capabilities, support for Adobe Flash Player 10.1 and the ability to pair it with your BlackBerry smartphone. The device was announced Sept. 27 at Research In Motion's BlackBerry Developer Forum in San Francisco. At the event, RIM also previewed BlackBerry Enterprise Application Middleware, an app development platform designed to enable commercial enterprise and corporate developers to build "super app" enterprise applications and services for BlackBerry smartphones.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported a RIM tablet was due in 4Q that would be called the BlackPad. Instead, RIM says in its Sept. 27 announcement that the PlayBook will be available for sale in early 2011 in the U.S. and in other markets in 2Q 2011. A price was not revealed. The initial device will debut with 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity. RIM says it also plans to offer 3G and 4G cellular versions in the future.  The Playbook features a 1 GHz dual-core processor and the new BlackBerry Tablet OS. It measures less than half an inch thick, weighs less than a pound, and features a 7-inch high-resolution display. RIM says it will begin working with developers and select corporate customers next month to begin development and early testing efforts.

BlackBerry smartphone users will be able to pair their device with a PlayBook using a secure Bluetooth connection. This means they can opt to use the larger tablet display to seamlessly and securely view any of the email, BBM, calendar, tasks, documents and other content that resides on (or is accessible through) their smartphone. They can also use their tablet and smartphone interchangeably without worrying about syncing or duplicating data.

RIM says BlackBerry PlayBook is compatible out-of-the-box with BlackBerry Enterprise Server, according to RIM. When connected via Bluetooth, smartphone content is viewable on the tablet, but it actually remains stored on the BlackBerry smartphone and is only temporarily cached on the tablet (and subject to IT policy controls). With this approach to information security, IT departments can deploy the BlackBerry PlayBook to employees out-of-the-box without worrying about all the security and manageability issues that arise when corporate data is stored on yet another device.

The BlackBerry Tablet OS is built upon the QNX Neutrino microkernel architecture, which is being used to support mission-critical applications in everything from planes, trains and automobiles to medical equipment and the largest core routers that run the Internet. The BlackBerry Tablet OS SDK is planned for release in the coming weeks.

RIM Acquisitions Explained

RIM's PlayBook tablet explains several of its recent acquisitions. For example: RIM's April acquisition of QNX Software Systems, from Harman International. The PlayBook operating system is based on QNX technology -- not the BlackBerry 6 OS that RIM launched this summer on the BlackBerry Torch. The PlayBook also offers full office document support, which makes more sense of RIM's recent acquisitions of DataViz and Documents to Go, according to a Sept. 27 report from ABI Research.

The consumer-geared Apple iPad has been the tablet to beat -- or at least match -- but creating an "iPad killer" is hardly a goal with which RIM needs to trouble itself, says analyst Ken Hyers, with Technology Business Research. RIM's target audience for PlayBook is enterprises running the BlackBerry Enterprise Server. "[RIM] really has the market to itself," Hyers tells CIO Insight sister publication eWEEK. "There's little chance, in my opinion, that this will be a runaway best seller, but I don't think it necessarily needs to be. If it catches on with the enterprise as a genuine productivity tool in the same way that the BlackBerry has, it will be a positive development for RIM.

Analyst Neil Mawston, with Strategy Analytics, likewise sees RIM differentiating the PlayBook by positioning it for the enterprise space -- but such a strategy won't necessarily equal blockbuster sales, Mawston warns. "This first-generation PlayBook should be popular among BlackBerry smartphone fans but it may struggle to sell in big volumes, due to it having no 3G connectivity to attract mobile operator subsidies, using a new operating system that is unfamiliar to many developers and consumers, and due to relatively limited app store support," Mawston tells eWEEK.

Promising to deliver "the real, full web experience" to mobile users, the PlayBook supports Adobe Flash Player 10.1, Adobe Mobile AIR and HTML-5. In a prepared statement released Sept. 27, RIM notes: "For more than a decade, the mobile industry has worked to bridge the gap between the 'real web' and mobile devices through various apps and technologies and, in fact, a significant number of mobile apps today still simply serve as a proxy for web content that already exists on the web. The BlackBerry PlayBook closes that gap and brings the real, full web experience to mobile users while also opening new and more exciting opportunities for developers and content publishers."

The Playbook also features dual HD cameras for video capture and video conferencing that can both record HD video at the same time, and an HDMI-out port for presenting one's creations on external displays. The BlackBerry PlayBook also offers rich stereo sound and a media player that rivals the best in the industry.

More About That OS

The Neutrino-based microkernel architecture in the BlackBerry Tablet OS delivers Common Criteria EAL 4+ security, and support for industry standard tools that are already familiar to hundreds of thousands of developers. The OS is fully POSIX compliant, enabling easy portability of C-based code, supports Open GL for 2D and 3D graphics intensive applications such as gaming, and will run applications built in Adobe Mobile AIR as well as the new BlackBerry WebWorks app platform announced Sept. 27. The latter will allow apps to be written to run on BlackBerry PlayBook tablets as well as BlackBerry smartphones with BlackBerry 6). The BlackBerry Tablet OS will also support Java, enabling developers to bring existing BlackBerry 6 Java applications to the BlackBerry Tablet OS environment.

The Spec Sheet

  • 7-inch LCD, 1024 x 600, WSVGA, capacitive touch screen with full multi-touch and gesture support
  • BlackBerry Tablet OS with support for symmetric multiprocessing
  • 1 GHz dual-core processor
  • 1 GB RAM
  • Dual HD cameras (3 MP front facing, 5 MP rear facing), supports 1080p HD video recording
  • Video playback: 1080p HD Video, H.264, MPEG, DivX, WMV
  • Audio playback: MP3, AAC, WMA
  • HDMI video output
  • Wi-Fi - 802.11 a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  • Connectors: microHDMI, microUSB, charging contacts
  • Open, flexible application platform with support for WebKit/HTML-5, Adobe Flash Player 10.1, Adobe Mobile AIR, Adobe Reader, POSIX, OpenGL, Java
  • Measures 5.1"x7.6"x0.4" (130mm x 193mm x 10mm)
  • Weighs less than a pound (approximately 0.9 lb or 400g)

BlackBerry Enterprise Application Middleware

BlackBerry Enterprise Application Middleware will include a set of application programming interfaces (APIs), libraries and server software to enable developers to build "super apps" that can access instant data push and alerts, use efficient file transfers with enterprise applications, and make it easy to query a user's device for geo-location, presence, current camera image, calendar availability, device type, and much more. It will be possible to use it with popular application development platforms such as IBM WebSphere, Oracle Fusion Middleware and the mobility platform from SAP and Sybase, and can be integrated with these platforms to give access to developers.

RIM says that when these capabilities are combined with the BlackBerry Enterprise Solution the results will deliver real-time communication via push technology, cost-effective data usage, efficiency over carrier networks, easy web-based administration of smartphones, servers, users, groups and applications, single sign-on, and secure wireless access to enterprise systems. IBM Interactive, Oracle and SAP are currently using BlackBerry Enterprise Application Middleware in early trials.

The initial set of BlackBerry Enterprise Application Middleware libraries are expected to be available in closed beta later this year. Additional libraries are expected to be released in 2011.

For more, read the eWeek article RIM PlayBook Tablet Shows Off Company's Acquisition Strategy.