RIM's HSPA+ and LTE PlayBook tablets could be headed to U.S. market

Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) may finally be close to releasing versions of its BlackBerry PlayBook tablet with cellular data connectivity, with versions supporting HSPA+ and LTE networks passing through the FCC.

blackberry playbook hspa lte research in motion

RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook could get an upgrade with cellular connections.

According to documents unearthed by the blog Engadget, RIM sent to the FCC several PlayBooks with various cellular capabilities, including several versions supporting HSPA+ networks as well as variants of LTE being supported by AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ). Devices must pass through FCC certification before they can go on sale.

A RIM representative did not immediately have a comment.

If versions of the PlayBook supporting HSPA+ and LTE did make it to market it would represent a victory for RIM, which has been trying for much of the past year to get carrier support for the tablet. RIM first promised in June 2011 that it would release 4G PlayBooks (LTE, WiMAX and HSPA+) sometime last fall. Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) nixed the idea of a WiMAX PlayBook last August. In December RIM booked a $485 million pre-tax charge for unsold PlayBook inventory. The company shipped 150,000 PlayBooks in its fiscal third quarter, down from 200,000 in the second quarter and 500,000 in the first quarter.

Meanwhile, a RIM executive said that eventually the PlayBook will be upgraded to the company's forthcoming BlackBerry 10 software, which will power RIM's next generation of smartphones. "We've said publicly a number of times that our first BB10 handset will be available towards the end of 2012, and that's still firmly the case," Rob Orr, RIM's vice president of product management, told TechRadar. "At some point after the launch we'll bring BB10 to our PlayBooks, yes." The PlayBook runs on QNX-based software, which will serve as the basis for BlackBerry 10.

Separately, Alan Panezic, RIM's vice president of enterprise product management, gave an update on RIM's corporate data security platforms. In a company blog post, Panezic explained that RIM's BlackBerry Mobile Fusion platform, which will eventually include corporate data support for Android and iOS devices as well as BlackBerry devices, is the natural evolution of RIM's existing BlackBerry Enterprise Server. "As a longstanding pillar of [mobile device management] in the enterprise, we've worked to provide a clean, simple, and secure solution to help you manage whatever gets thrown your way. This is BlackBerry Mobile Fusion," he wrote. "It's a huge leap forward for device management, and it's built on the valued security model introduced with BlackBerry Enterprise Server. The evolution of BlackBerry Enterprise Server is BlackBerry Mobile Fusion."

For more:
- see this Engadget post
- see this TechRadar article
- see this BlackBerry blog post

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