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The rumour mill has been whirring for months when it comes to the BlackBerry tablet. But now it’s finally here and it really does look like a credible iPad alternative.

The PlayBook, as its officially known, is billed as an enterprise tablet, a work machine that syncs with your phone as well as offering up the latest videos and tunes. And above all, it proves that RIM is ready for an all out assault on its rivals, ready to kick on from its current position as a solid but unspectacular smartphone maker.

The key plank is undoubtedly the new operating system, built from the ground up by RIM acquisition QNX. Dubbed simply The BlackBerry Tablet OS, it eschews BB OS6’s mildly clunky styling for something altogether more webOS and iOS alike. That means you can easily scooch around menu systems, there are no awkward design quirks and it looks every bit as modern as its rivals.

BlackBerry Playbook

RIM has seen the value in creating something unique and recognised that a simple smartphone port will not do when it comes to tablets. Concerns about Android tablets centre on the fact that Google doesn’t consider its OS to be built for such devices.

In developing The BlackBerry Tablet OS, RIM has sidestepped this problem and created plenty of buzz about its device already. It’s realised that while hardware is important, these days software is king.

In making the PlayBook Wi-Fi only for now, RIM has also managed to swerve a major issue faced by tablet makers: how to convince punters to shell out for a monthly 3G contract as well as paying for a phone every 30 days.

You can hook the PlayBook up to your BlackBerry via Bluetooth and use data that way, while you’ll be able to use the devices in conjunction so you can sync up important information and work on a gadget a bit more sizeable.

The contract issue is one that will continue to dog Android slates, but a front-up price only for the PlayBook should make it a more attractive proposition. The hardware also shows that BlackBerry is pressing ahead hard and not making any compromises. 1080p video bests the iPad, while Flash’s inclusion should make browsing the web a more pleasurable experience, albeit that the screen is a slightly smaller than the iPad’s 9.7-inches.

Loading up dual HD cameras is also a winner and means that RIM has beaten Apple to the punch when it comes to tablet-based video conferencing, a function it evidently thinks will be a key factor for consumers. Sling in HDMI and microUSB ports and its connectivity is classy as well.

The PlayBook shows just how far RIM has come, training its eye on killer software which is backed up by solid hardware. Doubtless this will help it push its new tablet to business types and media junkies alike. But with a six-month wait for us Brits, will it be left wanting as more tablets land? Only time will tell, but its arrival is certainly worth getting excited about.

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