It took them quite a while but it looks like Research in Motion is finally ready to release the LTE version of its BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. The device is set to go on sale August 9 to Bell, Rogers, and TELUS customers in Canada and other parts of the world "in the coming months."
The LTE PlayBook will come in a single 32GB variant and aside from 4G connectivity it is essentially the same as the Wi-Fi version -- that means it has a 7-inch display, both front and rear-facing cameras, HDMI-out and stereo speakers. On the software side the tablet runs PlayBook OS 2.0, including support for RIM's unified inbox and built-in calendar and contacts apps, which were notably missing at launch.
RIM did not say how much the 4G LTE PlayBook will cost or if it’ll be offered with carrier subsidies. The Wi-Fi only versions of the tablet, introduced over a year ago, haven’t sold well despite several discounts.
Coinciding with the announcement of the new tablet, The Telegraph has posted a report quoting CEO Thorsten Heins about the possibility of licensing the next-gen BlackBerry platform. According to Heins, it’s too early to get into details, but it is something they are actively investigating as a way of getting more budget smartphones into the market and putting BlackBerry 10 in front of a wider audience.
“We don’t have the economy of scale to compete against the guys who crank out 60 handsets a year. We have to differentiate and have a focused platform. To deliver BB10 we may need to look at licensing it to someone who can do this at a way better cost proposition than I can do it,” Heins said. “You could think about us building a reference system, and then basically licensing that reference design, have others build the hardware around it – either it’s a BlackBerry or it’s something else being built on the BlackBerry platform.”
Whether hardware manufacturers would be interested in working with BB10 is another matter. The platform still enjoys a large user base globally but has been on a steady decline at the hands of Android and iOS. Heins is confident the rough transition to the QNX-based BB10 platform will pay off in the end, however, claiming it's a "once in a decade change" and that a lot of people are going to be surprised when it’s out.
BlackBerry 10 was due to arrive in late 2012, but due to numerous setbacks RIM announced it would postpone the launch until the beginning of 2013. Meanwhile, pink slips are handed left and right as the company’s stock continues to tumble, going from around $150 in 2008 to $7.25 today.