SAN FRANCISCO ( TheStreet) - Research In Motion ( RIMM) unveiled its challenger to the Apple ( AAPL) iPad on Monday when the phone maker took the wraps off its eagerly-anticipated tablet offering.

Perhaps inspired by the NFL, RIM has dubbed its tablet the PlayBook, and launched both the new device and a BlackBerry Tablet operating system at its developer conference.

With a 7-inch screen, RIM is touting the PlayBook as a "professional-grade" tablet device, and is clearly hoping to capitalize on the BlackBerry's popularity in corporate America. Apple, in contrast, initially targeted the iPad at the consumer market, although the tablet has already carved out an foothold in the enterprise.

Unlike the iPad, the PlayBook supports Adobe ( ADBE) Flash Player 10.1 and the tablet can also link up with users' BlackBerry devices via a secure Bluetooth connection. Users can therefore use their tablet and smartphone interchangeably without worrying about syncing or duplicating data, according to RIM.

"This secure integration of BlackBerry tablets and smartphones is a particularly useful feature for those business users who want to leave their laptop behind," the company said in a statement released after market close.

Best known for its BlackBerry device, RIM was widely expected to enter the tablet market at the BlackBerry Devcon 2010 event; although the device was rumored to be called 'the BlackPad'.

The stakes are certainly high for the PlayBook. RIM is under serious pressure from Apple, as well as Google ( GOOG) with its Android OS. Microsoft's ( MSFT) Windows Phone 7 is also waiting in the wings and could further shake up the smartphone market.

The PlayBook is expected to be available in the United States in early 2011 with rollouts in other international markets beginning in the second quarter of next year. Pricing wasn't disclosed.

RIM shares rose 93 cents, or 1.92%, to $49.29 in extended trading on Monday.

--Written by James Rogers in New York.

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