BlackBerry PlayBook will be first tablet to run TI's OMAP4 chipset, RIM to wait it out for dual-core in phones
It is quite the debut for the chipset, since NVIDIA beat everybody to the punch with its Tegra 2 dual-core silicon - while not the most energy-efficient or powerful of them all, it was out first. After it managed to become a reference platform for tablets with Android 3.0 Honeycomb, it seemed that the dual-core Snapdragons, TI's OMAP4, and even Samsung's Orion, were put on the backburner for a while, but we are slowly hearing now for tablets carrying different dual-core chips than Tegra 2, such as Asus MeMO with Snapdragon, and now the PlayBook with OMAP4 .
The main advantages of TI's OMAP4 family are low power consumption (probably the lowest out of the other dual-core chipsets), and advanced image and video capabilities. It doesn't have integrated baseband modems like Qualcomm's Snapdragon, which might explain why the PlayBook will appear on Sprint's WiMAX network at first.
Mike Lazaridis, the CEO of RIM, also said that the company has a 10 year plan (?!), and dual-core BlackBerry smartphones with the QNX operating system will eventually find their way into RIM's lineup. The reason for the delay he cited as dual-core being perfect for tablets, but not for smartphones due to "battery life, size, weight, thickness, cost". Hmm, that Motorola ATRIX 4G looks perfectly slick to us at 0.43" thickness, and as far as battery life is concerned, Moto just slapped a humongous 1930mAh battery in there to get 9 hours of talk time, so come on, Mr Lazaridis, admit it that cost is the main issue here.
And this from a company that is second only to Apple in profit margin from their handsets, due not to hardware, but to the added value of BBM and BES for corporate and security-sensitive customers. These services unfortunately won't be natively supported in the BlackBerry Playbook, so its real added value can very well be the OMAP4 chipset, and the QNX operating system that is actually optimized for multicore performance. That is why everything, including Adobe Flash, appears so smooth on RIM's 7" tablet, although the tablet still has some work to be done on power management.
While the company is waiting for dual-core chipset prices to go down, and milking the current generation of its handsets for what it's worth, the competition is not sleeping. While hardly anyone can replicate the BlackBerry ecosystem, with its BES and BBM services, there are already signs that even corporate customers are considering the switch to more modern smartphones, so now that RIM has the only mobile OS that can take true advantage of up to 32 cores, they better get some use out of it, before the others catch up in that respect.
Have a glimpse at our hands-on video of the BlackBerry PlayBook demonstrating the interface and the true multitasking capabilities of QNX below.