Hoping to beat the rush to get a tablet device on store shelves, Research in Motion Ltd. (NASDAQ:RIMM) has announced the launch of a 7-inch tablet the company calls the PlayBook, and that is expected to reach stores early in 2011. That’s right, at least 3 and possibly as many as 6 months in the future.
That’s a more aggressive launch plan than the announcement by Dell Inc. (NASDAQ:DELL) that it will be releasing its second version of a tablet, a 7-inch model compared with the 5-inch Dell Streak released earlier this year. Michael Dell himself said that the original Streak, “would soon be available” at Best Buy stores. No date, or name, for the 7-inch model.
The folks at Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) must be quivering in their boots at this flurry of competitive hardware. Just kidding. By the time RIM and other device makers get their tablets onto store shelves, Apple will have sold more than 10 million iPads and will have set itself up (again) as the target that all other tablet makers will have to chase. More press releases are sure to be in draft even now.
Not to fall behind in the battle of press releases, Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE:HPQ) has announced two tablets. One uses the webOS operating system that HP acquired with its purchase of Palm. The other uses the Windows 7 Mobile operating system from Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT). The webOS-based model will ship at some unspecified date in 2011 and there’s no estimated delivery date yet for the Windows-based device.
Sure there are other competitors to the iPad that are set to be available for the holiday shopping season, including the Galaxy from Samsung, which uses the Android operating system from Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG). It remains to be seen if any of these gizmos will make a serious dent in iPad sales.
RIM’s PlayBook offers many nice features, like cameras on both front and back of the device. But the main differentiator of the device is its operating system, which was built by a recent RIM acquisition, QNX Software Systems. The PlayBook also supports Flash technology from Adobe Systems Inc. (NASDAQ:ADBE), something the iPad does not do.
The jockeying for position behind Apple will only get more intense as more tablets wend their way to store shelves. It appears that Apple has carved out a new product category that could swallow up the market for netbooks and maybe even low-end laptops. Even being number two in that market would be nothing to sneeze at.
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