The tablet wars are heating up again as the industry's latest contender, the BlackBerry PlayBook, has hit the market.
Shipments of the device began in North America last week and it will be made available internationally by the end of this quarter.
But Research In Motion (RIM), the maker of the PlayBook, faces an uphill battle in a market Apple has dominated globally with its iPad and iPad 2 tablet computers.
In February, more than a quarter of consumers in the US said they planned to buy a tablet in the future, although fewer than 5 per cent of them said they wanted the PlayBook. That compares with 82 per cent who said they intended to buy an iPad, says a report released last month by the market research company ChangeWave.
But there are signs the PlayBook may prove popular in this part of the world. Some people have listed the device for sale or pre-order on regional sites such as Souq.com for between Dh2,049 (US$557) and Dh4,000 before its international release. As was the case when Apple's iPads were first listed in the UAE, these prices are higher than the suggested retail prices of $499 for the 16-gigabyte model to $699 for 64 gigabytes.
Business professionals who have been holding back from dishing out dirhams on an iPad hoping the PlayBook would be a worthy opponent may be disappointed.
Early reviews and reactions have been mixed, with some complaining the PlayBook lacks basic built-in applications for e-mail, scheduling appointments on a calendar and the popular BlackBerry Messenger chat feature that more than 35 million people use on their RIM mobile phones.
A spokesman for RIM says tablets can synch with BlackBerry smartphones so information can be updated in real time, but it is not saved on the computer. The devices connect wirelessly through Bluetooth when they are within 30 metres.
The PlayBook's multitouch screen also works quite well and can play high-definition movies.
But what remains to be seen is whether the PlayBook will pack enough punch to take a bite out of Apple's market share.
Two gadgets, one sector
Research In Motion (RIM) and Apple have battled it out before over their smartphones, the BlackBerry and the iPhone.
What are some of the differences between their tablets?
One is that the iPad started with numerous applications that could be downloaded from its store, with more than 65,000 now available. RIM is creating an apps shop for its PlayBook, although that probably means far less choice once customers try to download games, restaurant finders and other kinds of apps.
Are they about the same price?
Yes. Both models cost between US$499 (Dh1,832) to $699 in the US, depending on specifications. International pricing is still being finalised for the PlayBook, but a spokesman for RIM says it should not be dramatically different.
How else do they differ?
The PlayBook is smaller, at 130mm wide by 194m tall. It weighs only 400 grams. Some business professionals prefer the more compact device, particularly if they travel frequently.
And what about the iPad’s size?
Those who prefer more digital real estate, to watch movies or read e-books for example, may very well prefer the latest iPad. It boasts a 9.7-inch screen, compared with PlayBook’s 7 inches. But while it is certainly wider and taller, at 185.7mm by 241.2mm, it also weighs a heftier 601 grams.
Top 5 best-selling tablets
1 ViewSonic gTablet
2 Motorola Xoom / Android Smart Tablet
3 Samsung Galaxy Tab
4 Apple iPad 2
5 Apple iPad
"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons." Popular Mechanics magazine, circa 1949