After months and months of anticipation, Research In Motion's debut tablet, the BlackBerry PlayBook, is finally here. The good news is that the user interface for the new BlackBerry Tablet OS is beautiful, graceful, and operates with a simplicity that rivals that of the Apple iPad 2 ($499) and bests the Motorola Xoom's ($599-$799) oft-cluttered screens. The bad news is that, at launch, there's a lot missing. First, there's no native e-mail support. (Didn't the RIM usher in the era of mobile e-mail with the BlackBerry?) The PlayBook also suffers from a dearth of compelling—or smooth-functioning—apps. Then there's the absence of should-be-standard features—why include a front-facing camera, but no video-chat app? Updates, RIM promises, will bring much of what's missing to the PlayBook in the near future. Throw in some better app selection, too, and the PlayBook may be worth revisiting down the road, but right now, it's unfinished.
The Wi-Fi-only BlackBerry PlayBook comes in three storage capacities—16GB ($499), 32GB ($599), and 64GB ($699). The PlayBook is priced identically to the Wi-Fi-only Apple iPad 2 for the same storage capacities. Currently there's no version with cellular service, though BlackBerry users can use their smartphones as hotspots for the tablet at no extra charge. RIM has announced a 4G PlayBook that's scheduled to launch this summer, along with LTE and HSPA+ versions that will be available later this year. Sprint has confirmed it will carry the WiMAX 4G model, and Verizon and AT&T are widely rumored to pick up the LTE and HSPA+ models respectively.