After a prolonged failure to launch, Research In Motion's 4G LTE Blackberry PlayBook is igniting chatter once again, as rumors spread of a July 31 debut. The source of all this sudden speculation comes from MobileSyrup.com's news of RIM's plans to finally release the upgraded PlayBook in Canada. The independent tech site also published a snapshot of product specs from "an internal Bell document" sent by an anonymous tipster.
According to MobileSyrup, the newly upgraded 7" tablet will be offered in a 32GB version only, for $549.85. It'll weigh about 15 oz. and features will include a 1024x600 screen resolution, a 1.5Hz dual-core processor, 4G LTE (and HSPA+) connectivity, BlackBerry 2.0 OS, 1GB RAM, a 5-megapixel rear camera that shoots 1080p HD video, a 3-megapixel front-facing camera, and a 4800 mAh battery.
If these rumors are true, and the 4G LTE Blackberry PlayBook tablet is released on July 31, it will come more than a year after RIM initially promoted the product at the Mobile World Congress, Barcelona, Spain, (February 2011) and a full year after RIM's original projected launch date of summer 2011. Consequently, the new PlayBook may be arriving a little too late. As CNET notes, the market for 7" tablets is infinitely more competitive now than it was a year ago, with products like Google's Nexus 7 and Amazon's Kindle Fire already claiming dominance.
More than that, RIM's biggest obstacle may be its unsubsidized $550 price point, which is a surprising strategy for RIM given the plummeting price trajectory of its current PlayBooks. A $550 price tag also pushes the 4G PlayBook way out of the cozy Kindle Fire range and in direct competition with the iPad. The new PlayBook, however, will offer a bargain for those who are itching to have a tablet with uber-fast data speeds; it technically still is cheaper than Apple's 4G iPad offerings. But it doesn't seem to offer any salient new features to genuinely compete in the 7" tablet market. As The Verge points out, the new 4G LTE Blackberry PlayBook is "almost exactly the same PlayBook that we all know and love."
From our archives, we concur: consumers do love the PlayBook — when it's dirt cheap; the most popular PlayBook deals come in at under $200, regardless of features. Currently, the best deal for a BlackBerry PlayBook 7" 32GB WiFi Tablet is a full $310 less than the supposed 4G starting price ($239.99 with free shipping, a low by $10).
Coming up with new and exciting products and sustaining momentum has been a constant struggle for RIM, a point which the New York Times believes is the core reason for RIM's ongoing hardship with falling profits, tumbling stock, quarterly losses, and pending lawsuits. From a consumer's point of view, it seems that ever since the arrival of the iPhone, the BlackBerry maker seems to have lost hold of its own identity and unique offerings. In the days to come many believe that the RIM'S future depends on whether or not the LTE Blackberry PlayBook is released, and well received.
Is the belated debut of RIM's 4G PlayBlook better late than never? Or too little, too late? Sound off in the comments.