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Research in Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) has chosen its home country of Canada to launch a new PlayBook tablet with built-in support for cellular networks, a feature that is becoming an industry standard and yet was absent from its earlier tablets.
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The BlackBerry maker said on Thursday it would launch the new PlayBooks in Canada next week and roll them out in the United States, Europe, South Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean in the coming months.
The PlayBook tablet was introduced more than a year ago, but sales were poor as it struggled to compete in an industry dominated by Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). The new PlayBook tablet is strategically important for RIM, which has seen its smartphone market share eroded over the past few years and is now looking for a life-raft.
The new PlayBook will be RIM’s first produce to use its QNX operating system, which it is adapting for a new generation of BlackBerry phones designed to compete with more popular Android devices and the iPhone.
The first PlayBook was widely criticized for lacking basic features such as email, something the new tablet will certainly remedy. It was also widely criticized for only being available with Wi-Fi capability. The new device will run on the latest 4G LTE networks that offer high-speed data download capabilities.
The 4G LTE BlackBerry PlayBook will come with 32 gigabytes of memory, the same as a mid-range iPad, and will be available from major Canadian carriers like Bell (NYSE:BCE), Rogers Communication (NYSE:RCI), and Telus Corp (NYSE:TU) on August 9. Major U.S. carriers like Verizon (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T (NYSE:T), which already support other BlackBerry devices, will likely support the new 4G PlayBook as well.
RIM has not said how much it will charge for the device. Over the last year, RIM has been forced to offer heavy discounts to boost flagging sales of the earlier PlayBook. RIM may still try to undercut competitors on pricing with the new tablet in order to encourage sales, because the PlayBook runs on the QNX operating system that will power RIM’s next generation of smartphones, due early next year.
RIM needs to have more applications available before the new phones hit the market if they are to compete. RIM hopes that greater PlayBook adoption will encourage developers to create apps for the QNX software, called BlackBerry 10.
Research in Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) closed Friday up 4 cents at $6.99 per share.
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