RIM unveils its BlackBerry slate: the PlayBook

Step aside, half-baked Android and Windows slate prototypes. It looks like a serious competitor to the iPad is finally coming our way. BlackBerry maker RIM has announced the PlayBook, a seven-inch tablet that packs a dual-core processor, a QNX-based operating system with multi-tasking capabilities, and a custom multi-touch user interface to tie it all together. And it looks quite slick, to say the least:

Now, RIM doesn't expect to have the device in stores until early next year, so don't get your credit card out yet. The PlayBook will be arriving as part of the same onslaught as other iPad competitors, including, if the latest reports can be believed, HP's own webOS slate.

Still, I'm having a hard time not getting excited about this thing. Its display has the same 1024x600 resolution as most netbooks, but the device is just 0.4" thick, and it tips the scales at a feather-light 0.9 lbs. (The iPad weighs a comparatively hefty 1.5 lbs.) RIM has also packed the PlayBook to the brim with hardware goodies: a gig of RAM, dual HD cameras, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1, and both Micro HDMI and Micro USB connectors. No 3G, though—the press release says that's coming "in the future."

The PlayBook sounds like a capable multimedia device, too. RIM claims support for H.264, WMV, and DivX video formats, not to mention OpenGL and Flash. The official PlayBook page shows the device running a full-screen racing game with snazzy-looking graphics, so provided RIM can rope in app developers, the PlayBook could go after the iPad's gaming laurels, too.

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