As Apple readies the next batch of iPad 2s for international release on Friday, RIM managed to sneak their PlayBook announcement under the wire yesterday. Officially revealing both the price and the launch date, RIM is sending a clear signal to Apple: It’s game on.

Billing the PlayBook as the world’s first “professional-grade” tablet, RIM will launch its entry in the tablet wars on April 19 in Canada and the United States, with pricing starting at $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi model, matching Apple’s price for the base level iPad 2. The 32GB and 64GB models will sell for $599 and $699, respectively.

While interesting that they chose to call it “professional-grade” (I can’t imagine it’s constructed better than the iPad 2, which is a marvel of engineering…), it’s the $499 price point that has me paying attention. Nevermind that the PlayBook is only 7 inches as compared to the iPad’s 10 inches. Most consumers aren’t going to get that far. They’ll be thinking, “Well, the new iPad is $499… oh hey, look, the PlayBook is $499 too!” RIM is the first company to be able to launch a new tablet that matches Apple on price, something that we haven’t seen from any other entrant this year (the 10-inch Motorola Xoom starts at $599).

Now before I start a fanboy war here, yes, I realize that the Xoom and the PlayBook are spec’ed differently than the iPad 2. The cameras are better. The processors are faster. They have more memory than the iPad 2. All that to say, the comparison is not completely fair. But for RIM to come out with a $499 tablet gets them that initial consumer attention, which is a smart move.

It will be interesting to see whether it pays off.

Article Via The Financial Post

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