PlayBook Set to Launch on April 19

by Jordan Richardson on March 23, 2011

Waterloo’s Research In Motion is set to roll out its PlayBook tablet starting on April 19. The plan is to launch the PlayBook at almost the same price as Apple’s iPad 2.

But RIM plans to launch its PlayBook in twice as many retail locations as the Apple iPad 2 and that sort of flooding could, the company hopes, take some of the focus off of the price tag. The PlayBook will be available in over 20,000 retail outlets across Canada and the United States.

There are three different types of PlayBook expected to hit the market initially.

An “entry-level” model is expected to retail at around $500 Canadian. This one carries with it 16GB of memory. There’s a 32GB model set to sell for $600 and a 64GB PlayBook that will retail at $700.

The iPad 2 rolls out three similar models for about $20 more in Canada.

For Apple’s competition, pricing points have always played a key role in their approach to market. With RIM, the PlayBook’s similar pricing tiers open up a window of opportunity to draw the focus away from cost and on to the sorts of features the tablet can offer. This means a greater focus on the fact that the PlayBook works with Flash, for instance.

When it launches, the PlayBook will have WiFi capability. BlackBerry users will be able to use tethering to get around that hurdle and some carriers are excited about that prospect because it allows them to push bigger data plans.

RIM says that the PlayBook will be available in Canada from the three big guys: Bell, Telus and Rogers. In the U.S., the PlayBook will make its splash on Sprint, AT&T and Verizon.

RBC estimates that RIM will move about four million PlayBooks by the end of the year. That is expected to include the launch of cellular-equipped models toward the end of the year. iPad sales, by comparison, are in the 30 million range. It’s expected that most major tablet manufacturers will see profit jumps this year, even if the iPad dominates the categories. This opens up a significant revenue stream and offers opportunities that most are willing to take. In other words, don’t expect the all-powerful iPad to scare manufacturers off from pushing new tablets just yet.

Of course, now the question to be asked is if these manufacturers can afford to start taking on the iPad in terms of pricing. Apple currently has the high-end tablet market cornered on pricing and it’s hard to imagine another challenger stepping forward any time soon, but it looks like RIM may be ready to give it the ol’ college try.

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