RIM’s PlayBook to span all high-speed access

By Reuters
Posted Feb. 14 at 5:41 p.m.

Research In Motion, maker of the BlackBerry smart phone, will release its PlayBook tablet computer on two more high-speed network standards in the second half of 2011, the company said Monday.

The move to offer LTE and HSPA+ versions of its PlayBook guarantees access to the most advanced wireless data networks in the world, including all major carriers in North America.

The first version of the PlayBook, with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth but no cellular connection, is set for launch in March and U.S. carrier Sprint Nextel will a  WiMax version in the summer.

But some analysts are growing impatient with RIM’s timeline for the PlayBook, which was first announced in September to join a booming market dominated by Apple’s iPad and compete for attention with tablets from the likes of Samsung, Motorola Mobility and Hewlett-Packard.

“It’s like a lot of stuff with the PlayBook: let’s start seeing it, let’s get it to market,” said BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis. “There’s been more talk than product. By the time they come out we’re going to have iPad 2.”

The Wi-Fi version of the PlayBook can connect to a user’s  BlackBerry  to access its data and use its wireless connection, but that may give carriers little incentive to subsidize or advertise the PlayBook aggressively.

Evolved High Speed Packet Access (HSPA+) is used by AT&T and T-Mobile in the United States and Rogers, BCE Inc. and Telus in Canada. Long Term Evolution (LTE) is an all-IP standard that Verizon Wireless, among others, has started to deploy.

Both are designed to carry increased amounts of data needed for video streaming and large file downloads at improved speeds.

RIM also said Monday that it had bought Seattle-based business social networking company Gist for an undisclosed sum, as it seeks to bolster its position versus Apple, Google’s Android, and the newly announced combination of Nokia and Microsoft in the fiercely competitive mobile telecoms market.

Gist aggregates information on a user’s contacts from various social media and news feeds and incorporates it in a consolidated profile.

“I like the acquisition strategy, but I find it a little late,” Gillis said, referring also to the December purchase of The Astonishing Tribe, a user interface company Gillis doubts RIM can utilize for its first PlayBook.

RIM also said its App World online store is now available in 27 more countries for a total of 101 and offers more than 20,000 applications.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company has struggled to compete with the consumer-focused app offerings of Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Marketplace.

Shares in RIM, which announced the PlayBook in late September, have jumped almost 50 percent since early that month. They closed down 1.6 percent Monday.

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