x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

BlackBerry tablet due in June

RIM's challenge to the iPad, the PlayBook, offers front and rear HD cameras and micro-USB and HDMI sockets.

A visitor test-drives the new BlackBerry Playbook at the 3GSM world congress in Barcelona, Spain in February.
A visitor test-drives the new BlackBerry Playbook at the 3GSM world congress in Barcelona, Spain in February.

Dubai // The new PlayBook tablet computer - BlackBerry's answer to Apple's iPad - will be launched in the UAE in June.

The PlayBook, which went on sale in the US and Canada last week, will initially be available here with wifi internet connectivity only. Versions that can use mobile phone networks will come later. Buyers will be able to choose 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of storage. No prices have been announced.

RIM insisted that its tablet was not a "me-too" version of the iPad. "We're not just coming to this market to follow others," said Mike al Mefleh, RIM's regional director of product management. "We just wanted to make sure that we were bringing a tablet to the market that meets the needs of consumers and enterprise customers as well."

Commentators have criticised the PlayBook for lacking features such as mobile network connectivity and support for the Java programming language used by developers.

Mr al Mefleh said that this first version was just the beginning. These and other features, such as support for the Android Market app store, will, he said, be added over the coming months and years.

Nor did he rule out models with bigger screens. "It is not just one tablet," he said. "This is a line of product, a category we are committed to."

Unlike the iPad, there is no "home" button. The only buttons, on the edge of the case, are for power, volume and play/pause. Everything else is done by touching and swiping the screen.

It allows several functions to run at once without slowing down. And, unlike the iPad, it supports Adobe's Flash standard, giving access to millions of online videos and websites.

E-mail is not delivered directly to the PlayBook, although websites such as Gmail and Hotmail do work. Instead, the PlayBook can be used to view and send e-mails via a BlackBerry smartphone, from its e-mail accounts. Its calendar takes the same approach.

The iPad has a year's head start but Mr al Meflah is confident about the PlayBook's prospects in the region.

"Taking into account all the features - and the fact that the tablet market is growing - we are very optimistic that we will have a lot of success with this," he said.