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Low key PlayBook launch day

RIM-PLAYBOOK/

Research In Motion’s much vaunted PlayBook tablet got off to a quiet start in North America on Tuesday.

After leaving an empty Staples midtown Manhattan store at about 7:15 AM, we hit the nearby Office Depot. It had no customers looking for the device.  In fact, it was hard to tell Office Depot was even selling PlayBook at all until a store employee directed us to the basement.

It took  a while to find the PlayBook display among the other office supplies.

Once we found it, the display itself wasn’t very impressive, just a basic promotional sign. In fact, the store said that RIM had yet to send it a demo unit.

Instead, the employee handed out a leaflet listing the product’s tech specifications. Apparently, the store had sold three PlayBook early Tuesday.  At about 7:20, a man in a suit came in but it turned out to be a Wall St analyst who stopped by to check out how many people were buying the tablet.  Both analyst and reporter were gearing up to interview each other until they discovered they were on the same mission.

Demand looked better in Canada, where a short line formed outside a Best Buy in Toronto. But at a Future Shop in downtown Toronto, staff waited to welcome PlayBook buyers who didn’t really materialize. The PlayBook was at the far end of the tablet aisle and customers had to walk past an iPad display to get to it.

RIM’s PlayBook looks smooth in first demo

CESEver 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.

HP’s Slate tablet: The early reviews

Hewlett-Packard, at long last, has released the tablet computer first glimpsed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last January, and it is a decidedly different take than what we’ve seen so far in the tablet space. Basically a business netbook sans a keyboard. That’s a far cry from Apple’s iPad — and maybe that’s the point.

The initial reviews of the HP Slatslate2e 500 are starting to trickle in and they are something of a mixed bag. There is plenty to debate, to be sure. The device sports Windows 7, Wi-Fi but no 3G, and has no app store link-up. But it features a digital stylus pen, has a relatively fast processor and plenty of room for storage. And then there is the little matter of that hefty $799 price tag, which has surprised more than a few people, given that the iPad starts at $499.

HP is not even pretending to be targeting the same buyers as the iPad. And a more interesting HP vs Apple showdown is likely to come next year, when HP releases the webOS tablet that everyone is curious to get a peek at.

from Summit Notebook:

Dell: stay tuned for “Streak”

It's hard to tell how much anticipation there is out there for Dell's upcoming "Streak" micro-tablet. The No. 3 PC maker's latest foray into a consumer arena that Apple's iPad has essentially helped create is set to hit stores this summer in the United States.

Consumer business unit chief Steve Felice told the Reuters Global Technology Summit that Dell isn't interested in becoming the No. 1 player in the smartphone and tablet mobile devices categories, where Apple and Google are waging a very high-profile war. But the former leader in personal computers fully intends to be a "top-tier player".

streak1"We look at this whole thing as an experience between the computer and the remote device. We still view these as complementary devices," he said.

Don’t look for Sony’s iPad killer any time soon

stringer

Don’t expect to see Sony’s response to Apple’s iPad tablet computer any time soon.

We talked to Sony Chief Executive Howard Stringer, who was in town to discuss the unveiling of Google TV, the  initiative that marries the Web to television. Stringer was very excited about that product, which will appear first in Sony TVs later this year, giving the electronics maker a head start against what is expected to be a future filled with Internet-enabled TVs. While noting that Sony’s digital book reader product sales are still strong, he seemed much less thrilled about any iPad-killer plans for Sony, maker of the popular Vaio line of computers.

Everybody’s now making one aren’t they? Tablets, tablets, as far as the eye can see.

from Summit Notebook:

Is Apple in Intel’s future?

Apple developed the processor for it's recently launched iPad tablet PC in-house. Intel was left waiting on the sidelines but change may be in store. Future tablets from other device makers, and maybe even Apple, could prove to be a lucrative for the world's largest chipmaker. And why not, Intel already makes the microprocessors that are used in more than three quarters of the world's PCs. Tom Kilroy, Intel senior vice president and general manager of sales and marketing, says "wait til Computex" for a big announcement. So, what's likely to come out of the industry trade show this June in Taipei? Any thoughts? Click below to hear what Kilroy had to say in San Francisco at the 2010 Reuters Global Technology Summit.

Intel on Tablet Opportunities from Reuters TV on Vimeo.