PlayBook may hit stores on April 14

Posted by Mark Raby

Research in Motion just sent out invitations to an event in New York City, and we all know what that means.

Actually, even if you're not comfortable enough making as assumption between a RIM event and he Playbook, RIM cuts out any doubt. The invitation, in a bit of a twist, actually outright admits it's all about the Playbook.

The event is scheduled to be held at a space usually reserved for Manhattan art shows. We're not ones to read volumes into subtle details like that, but it is fitting because the Playbook could turn out to be a masterpiece, or it could just be something no one understands or wants.

The invitation notes it will be an event for members of the media to demo the Playbook, but most have already seen it in person. We think it might actually be a launch announcement for the device.

Even if RIM doesn't surprise us and release the Playbook right after the event, it should be very, very shortly thereafter. It's been speculated that the device is pretty much complete at this point.

The initial units will only have Wi-Fi connectivity, since RIM is setting its mobile data sights for the device exclusively on 4G. It's working with Sprint to make a version compatible with its high-speed network.

It's going to be a very important product for RIM. The company has been literally bleeding out subscribers. Even though it still remains the #1 smartphone platform in the US, that lead is diminishing very quickly.

The Playbook is seen by many as the company's last chance to stay on top before it's completely gobbled up by Android or the iPhone, but it has a lot of competition. In addition to the iPad which is its direct competitor, Samsung's Galaxy Tab is making waves, and Motorola's Xoom tablet - which will also be 4G-capable - is catching a lot of attention.

RIM's last move to compete against the new mobile giants was a huge failure. The Blackberry Torch, the first to include RIM's brand new Blackberry operating system, was seen as nothing more than a minor incremental upgrade to the increasingly-dated Blackberry software. For Playbook, it's a completely new, from-the-ground-up operating system.