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.
PreCentral got its hands on a WebOS 3.0 Beta 1 emulator courtesy of "an awesome (and anonymous) tipster" and the site's Derek Kessler on Wednesday posted a video walkthrough of the UI and several applications running on the emulator (video below).
Kessler noted that the emulator runs on more powerful hardware than it will in the TouchPad, a Wi-Fi version of which is due out this summer, to be followed by 3G and 4G products later in the year. He also had to use a mouse to operate what will be a touch interface to run the demo.
No, it's not an iPad 3 rumor. Rather, some innovative people from the Engineering Human-Computer Interaction Research Group have rigged the 2D display of the Apple iPad 2 for a glasses-free 3D perspective.
Using a feed from the front-facing camera coupled with some clever software hacks, the group was able to create what it calls the Head-Coupled Perspective (HCP).
"It is based on [an] efficient head-tracker that uses the front-facing camera of the device," said a description on the group's Web site. "We use an off-axis projection in order to adapt the perspective of the 3D scene according to the head's position of the user. Such spatially-aware mobile display [is able] to improve the possibilities of interaction."
Over the past couple of days, rumors have been spreading that Best Buy has been ordered by Apple to halt sales of the iPad 2. The story is that Apple got wind of the fact that Best Buy had been stockpiling iPad 2 units, and didn't like that. However, we've got a very reliable source who just hit us up to give us the real scoop, and it turns out that it's a bit more sinister than a plan to stockpile iPad 2 units for a big weekend event.
According to a DigiTimes report, Japan has implemented a power brownout policy that is seriously hindering the production of upstream component makers in the country. However, Apple has agreed to absorb additional costs to ensure "smooth shipping" from the suppliers. In return, these Japanese companies are expected to see minimal negative affects on their profit margins.
AppleInsider pointed out an iSuppli report from earlier this month that said there are five key iPad components likely produced in Japan, including the device's battery, dynamic random access memory (DRAM), NAND flash, electronic compass, and the touch screen overlay glass.
We review the Smart Cover for the iPad 2 in this episode. Apple went back to the drawing board after their original iPad Case was found to not be the best design, and alongside the release of the iPad 2, they've got the Smart Cover. Using magnets to connect itself to the iPad, the Smart Cover is available in polyurethane or leather, and acts as a screen protector cleaner, and stand for the iPad 2. We give you a look at how it works.
Best Buy is now accepting pre-orders for the device in stores and online. It's available in 16GB for $499, 32GB for $599, and 64GB for $699.
Best Buy and Future Shops in Canada will also have the Playbook on April 19 and are accepting pre-orders.
In the U.S., the Playbook will also be available at AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon stores, as well as CBeyond, Cellular South, Cincinnati Bell, Office Depot, RadioShack, ShopBlackBerry.com, Staples, and BlackBerry from Wireless Giant.
Similar to the U.S. launch, the iPad 2 will go on sale abroad at 5pm local time, and will be available online at 1am.
"While competitors are still struggling to catch up with our first iPad, we've changed the game again with iPad 2," Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO, said in a statement. "We're experiencing amazing demand for iPad 2 in the U.S., and customers around the world have told us they can't wait to get their hands on it. We appreciate everyone's patience and we are working hard to build enough iPads for everyone."
In total, the iPad 2 will be available in 25 additional countries on Friday, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.
It's the hardest decision an Apple fan can make: Pick up a discounted iPad or splurge for its slightly more expensive successor, the iPad 2. And it's not like Apple's made the dilemma any easier: The company discounted its original iPad models by a cool $100 upon the announcement of the iPad 2, adding an even greater incentive for those looking to score a tablet on the cheap.
And now, that decision just got a whole lot harder.
Not content to let Apple be the only tease on the block, AT&T has since followed up with a price discount of its very own. Customers looking to purchase a first-generation iPad can now do so via the mobile carrier, which will slap an extra $100 discount on top of Apple's.
The $200 reduction, in total, drops the final price of the original iPad (3G) to $429 and $529 for the 16GB and 32GB versions respectively. In addition, AT&T has slashed the price of the 64-gigabyte version of the iPad 3G to $529, a $300 savings beyond its original purchase price, which you can pick that up via AT&T's official website.
As usual, the Gear Live crew was near the front of the line as we waited for the iPad 2 to go on sale. Apple closed their doors about an hour before launch, and we started recording when the curtain came down. Get a look at the in-store festivities, which involves a lot of clapping and high-fives, followed by our in-store unboxing of a white iPad 2 with 3G, along with a Smart Cover demo.
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