Ever since its announcement last fall, gadget geeks have been itching to take Research in Motion’s new tablet for a test drive. Tech reporters finally got some hands-on time with the device — the PlayBook — on Wednesday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Amid a crush of iPad wannabes, RIM’s tablet proved to be a pleasant surprise.
Some companies used CES to show off less-than-fully-baked tablets, with vendors such as Motorola saying the software was not fully ready. The PlayBook (while also still a work in progress; the real deal will launch in February or March) was noticeably zippy (it sports a speedy dual-core chip). It also has an attractive, intuitive user interface, and played Flash-based videos from the Web at a snap.
It is of course way too early to say flatly that the PlayBook is a real-deal competitor to Apple’s iPad, but the initial take on the device in at least some prominent tech blogs seemed very positive. And with a slew of Android-based tablets hitting the market in the coming months, RIM’s tablet certainly offers a different option. RIM said flat-out that corporate interest in the PlayBook is “massive.” The mobile chief of AT&T said on Wednesday that his customers were looking forward to getting more information about the device.
While some analysts say it might be tough for anybody to catch up to Apple’s iPad, the great tablet war may turn out to be more interesting than expected. Stay tuned…