The most important thing about Research In Motion's (RIMM) new PlayBook tablet announcement isn't the form factor -- a 7-inch screen tablet -- but rather that there may be a possibility that the brand new operating system from RIM's recent QNX acquisition could be modified to run Google (GOOG - Get Report) Android applications.
No, RIM didn't say that this will be the case. But a description of the QNX OS architecture by QNX CEO Dan Dodge appeared to hold out the hope that this new OS could easily be modified to run Android apps. As to whether RIM would actually bake this capability into a future version of the QNX OS is, of course, entirely unknown.
This does beg the question, however: If it was possible, why wouldn't RIM open up the possibility? While RIM didn't say that its new OS could be easily modified in order to run Android apps, it didn't completely deny it either. I think the capability is in the cards, and we should find out in 2011. It sure would make for a blockbuster leap into the Android marketplace with over 100,000 apps!
Android-app compatibility or not, the important part of the PlayBook announcement isn't at all that it's a tablet, but rather that this is a brand new OS. Blackberry's current OS is, at its core, well past its prime, and I experience this every day because all of my BlackBerrys take close to half an hour to reboot, and they crash and freeze frequently.Make no mistake about it: The new QNX OS will power not only the PlayBook tablet, but also the BlackBerry smartphones starting perhaps in late 2011, but for sure by 2012. Much has been made about the connectivity of the PlayBook. It's not that complicated, actually. Just like Apple's (AAPL - Get Report) iPad, the Playbook will first launch with WiFi + Bluetooth. The version which adds cellular connectivity (3G/4G) will arrive later, just like the iPad 3G did. Seeing that this is a brand new OS, it takes some time to integrate the 3G/4G drivers, and then the carriers as well as the Federal Communications Commission need some time to certify these PlayBook 3G/4G versions. It is a reasonable expectation that the 3G/4G versions of the PlayBook could arrive in the third calendar quarter of 2011. For the first time, a BlackBerry product will have a non-removable battery, and for the first time in years, a BlackBerry product will be lacking a MicroSD card. In other words, it will be again taking cues from the iPad. The apps processor looks to be from Texas Instruments (TXN - Get Report), but that is not 100% confirmed, even though most signs point to TI.