Vodafone is the first Aussie mobile carrier out of the gate with the 7 inch BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, which it will bundle with BlackBerry smartphones on capped voice+data plans starting from $59 per month.
The PlayBook and BlackBerry Bold 9780 combo, tied to Vodafone’s $49 Cap Plan – with $500 of talk & text plus unlimited BlackBerry Internet and an extra 1.5GB for streaming video services such as ABC News 24 – will set you back $59 per month when you ink a 24-month contract.
Pairing the PlayBook with the same smartphone on Vodafone’s $65 Infinite Plan – which ups the ante with unlimited calls to any standard Australian landlines, plus unlimited texting worldwide (also known as 'the Shane Warne pack') – comes in at $75 per month over 24 months. For more details, visit Vodafone's PlayBook page.
If you want to buy the PlayBook outright it's available from Harvey Norman from $579 for the 16GB model, with 32GB and 64GB versions also on offer.
However, these are all WiFi-only models – this first-gen PlayBook lacks 3G, which means that for internet access you'll need to tether it to your BlackBerry smartphone (which is also required to run apps like BlackBerry email and Messenger on the PlayBook) or hit a wireless hotspot.
The PlayBook goes up against tablets like Motorola's Xoom and Samsung's Galaxy Tab family, as well as the Apple's iPad of course, although BlackBerry parent company RIM is positioning the PlayBook as 'the first business-class tablet' and hopes it will will duplicate the success of the BlackBerry smartphone in becoming an “enterprise standard”.
That said, the PlayBook also contains a raft of consumer applications better suited to the living room than the conference room.
Crucial to both roles is the PlayBook’s support for standards such as Adobe Flash and HTML5, full 1080p HD video, DivX video plus HDMI and USB ports, albeit in space-saving ‘micro’ connector formats.
The PlayBook also features dual front- and rear-facing cameras to support video conferencing and allows full multi-tasking between programs.
Gartner analyst Van Baker described RIM’s positioning of the PlayBook as “the iPad for the suits.”
“RIM has a bit of a split personality: they struggle with whether they are a consumer or enterprise device company” Baker explains. “Enterprise is their bread and butter, but consumer is the big market right now.”
The device’s very name echoes some of that duality. A ‘playbook’ is a collection of tactical set-pieces commonly used in North American sports, especially the stop-start games of basketball and gridiron football.
However, the double capitalisation of the word PlayBook also underscores the tablet’s role outside the office. RIM happily talks up the PlayBook’s potential for gaming, with the dual-core 1GHz processor and advanced graphics paving the way for 2D and 3D games.