BlackBerry PlayBook gets launch date as HP fumes over 'uncanny similarities'

Research In Motion's BlackBerry PlayBook tablet will reportedly go on sale in the US on 10 April, but HP has taken a swipe at the device for its webOS-like user interface.

Stuart Dredge
3 min read

RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook could go on sale on 10 April in North America, according to a report that suggests its QNX-powered operating system will require an update out of the box. That same software, however, is sparking controversy, with HP publicly claiming it owes a big debt to webOS.

Boy Genius Report claims to have the scoop on the launch date, citing "multiple sources" as confirming the 10 April launch at retail. "Additionally, we're told the OS goes GM [gold master, ie ready for public consumption] on 31 March and that when you boot up the device right out of the box, you'll be prompted to upgrade to a newer version of the OS," claims the story.

We're hoping that's not true -- it's not exactly getting off on the right foot for a new device. RIM has not announced an official launch date yet, nor has it said how it plans to roll its tablet out across the world. We're guessing the UK will get it pretty early, but possibly not at the same time as the US and Canada. We'd love to be proved wrong, mind.

What about the emerging spat between RIM and HP, though? Tech site Laptop thinks the QNX operating system in the PlayBook bore a resemblance to Palm's webOS -- now owned by HP and being used as the basis for its TouchPad tablet and a series of smart phones. The site asked both companies for their views, and HP's response is a humdinger.

"From what we've seen in the market, there are some uncanny similarities," says TouchPad director of marketing Jon Oakes. "It's a fast innovation cycle and a fast imitation cycle in this market, so we just know that we have the creative engine here to continue to build on what we have, and we'll keep innovating, we'll keep honing and those guys hopefully will continue to see the value in it and keep following us by about a year."

Oof! RIM's response comes from SVP for business and platform marketing Jeff McDowell, who tells Laptop, "I feel that we set out from the ground up to define a user experience that we felt would delight our customers, and we landed in a place that may look like other competitive devices. But there was no intention and no preconceived notion that this is what we want to end up looking like."

He goes on to compare tablets to cars, in the sense that the latter have a broadly similar shape because they all get tested in a wind tunnel (we paraphrase, but that really is the gist). "When you're trying to optimise user experience that juggles multi-tasking, multiple apps open at once and on a small screen, you're going to get people landing on similar kinds of designs," says McDowell.

What with this row, and Apple CEO Steve Jobs laying into rivals left, right and centre during the iPad 2 launch last night, it looks like 2011 is going to be the year of the catty tablet maker. Pull up a deckchair and enjoy the show...