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The Apple iPad 2 is getting a lot of kudos as a next-generation tablet computer. But it’s not the only show in town. Research in Motion is launching its BlackBerry PlayBook tablet soon and our close-up demo of the device shows that it’s a pretty good game, video, and multimedia machine.

The question facing RIM’s tablet is whether there is room in the market for smaller players to grab some market share that neither Apple nor Google Android tablets can snare. RIM”s device is perfectly functional, but its acceptance depends on the timing of its launch and the pricing. RIM hasn’t announced that yet.

Tyler Lassard, head of BlackBerry developer relations for RIM, was at the Game Developers Conference last week showing off the multitasking and game capabilities of the new RIM tablet computer, which is set to debut in March or April. The demo shows that the user interface is appealing and fast. You can swipe your finger across the screen to cruise through a menu of choices. You can easily look at sharp photos on the 7-inch LCD screen and tap on the tablet’s touch-sensitive bezel.

The user interface is simple and pretty. It’s easy to minimize apps or close them. Lassard showed that you can swipe up on an app screen to get back to your home screen. If you do that in the middle of a video, you can see a minimized window of the video while it still continues to play. Then you can start a game or another video. The PlayBook is quite capable of handling multiple tasks at the same time.


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The device is enterprise ready, able to handle your corporate email. But in case you need a break, you can play games such as Machinarium or Need for Speed Shift on it. Lassard said the open source version of Quake was ported over to the PlayBook in about a week. Electronic Arts in the meantime has created a native version of Need for Speed for the device and makes use of its built-in accelerometer, which lets you control the game by tilting it back and forth. The Flash-based Machinarium game was ported in a matter  of days to the PlayBook.

There’s a growing list of apps on the tablet, such as an Elmo kids game (it’s funny to hear Elmo talking over the Quake game in the video). The screen resolution is 1024 x 600 and the device can play 1080p high-definition video. It will be able to run the full Adobe Flash 10.1 software when that is ready and it has support for HTML5. It runs the QNX operating system with true multitasking.

It has a Texas Instruments dual-core 1-gigahertz OMAP 4 processor with a gigabyte of main memory. For an earlier look at the PlayBook, check out what VentureBeat’s Devindra Hardawar wrote about the PlayBook in January. The big selling point for the PlayBook will be 4G high-speed internet connectivity. But it isn’t exactly clear just how soon that will be available. The device also has a 3-megapixel forward-facing camera and a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera, which will allow you to do video conferencing. Apple’s iPad 2 is more impressive, but RIM just might be able to carve out a reason for being if it targets this at enterprise users and comes out with a good price.

Check out our video of the RIM BlackBerry PlayBook below.


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