BlackBerry PlayBook tablet for Australia, but not NZ


Chris Keall

RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook.

UPDATE APRIL 8: Research In Motion (RIM) will preview its PlayBook tablet for Australian journalists on April 13 - indicating release is imminent in that country.

But it's all quiet on the eastern front.

RIM has told NBR it hopes the PlayBook will be released in New Zealand by the end of June.

But that's dependent on the BlackBerry maker reaching agreemets with Vodafone and Telecom (2degrees doesn't support BlackBerry devices on its network).

And there was no news in that department yesterday.

Vodafone had "nothing official" to say, though certainly is not having a launch next week. Telecom said it never comments on upcoming devices (the company has just released a house-brand Android).

So ... hopefully the PlayBook will turn up on our shores, and give the iPad a little competition, but it looks like we're going to be behind our Australian friends.

MARCH 23: RIM has revealed the US release day (April 19) and pricing ($US499 for a 16GB model, $US699 for a 64GB model) for its BlackBerry PlayBook.

One of the PlayBook's defining features is that it has to be tethered to a BlackBerry handset for 3G data access (though the tablet itself can connect through wi-fi).

Another is that its screen is 7 inches, to the iPad's 9.7. The compactness will appeal to some. And everybody should like the high def screen, ability to display Flash graphics, and its support for HSPA+, the fastest type of 3G (see more on the PlayBook's pros and cons here).

But, sadly, as much as many local RIM fans will want to check out the PlayBook, its Canadian maker's plans for New Zealand are vague.

A RIM spokesperson today told NBR there were no announcements on a New Zealand launch date, price or carriers for the tablet.

RIM still hopes the device will be rolled out in the second calendar quarter finishing June 31.

A place for BlackBerry
Free push email is commonplace on smartphones now. As is - to a less extent - the universal inbox, undermining RIM's original raison d'être.

But it has a new killer app - it's closed system's security - which has helped it retain NZ government contracts (even if the minister of communications also carries an iPhone 4 on the sly), and will Auckland super city business.

Plus, the iPad 2 needs a little competition.

All iPad, all of the time
Some readers moan that the media gives the iPad 2 too much play.

But at least we know that, as night follows day, Apple will alrways release its latest product in New Zealand - and usually give an NZ-specific date, to boot, at the same time as its US announcement. The company is always backing its latest gadget 100%

Yes, everybody has to grapple with phone company politics, but if RIM's local plans vague (and here I could also have said HP with its Palm WebOS devices, Samsung or Motorola with their second generation Android tablets or anyone supporting Microsoft's latest tablet push - all of which have had wishy washy or zero local announcements) it must be hard to drum up much grassroots demand, which is always the ultimate leverage.

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