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RIM to release Playbook for faster networks

New device on sale Thursday

Research In Motion is launching its new PlayBook tablet for advanced networks that will have a faster Internet experience, giving the Canadian tech company an updated product to sell before its new smartphones come to market.

RIM's latest PlayBook will be launched next week - in Canada first - and is designed for wireless networks with speeds equivalent to high-speed home Internet services on land lines. The 4G LTE PlayBook tablet computer will be available Aug. 9 at Rogers, Bell and Telus - Canada's three largest carriers.

RIM said the price of the new PlayBook, which has 32 GB of memory storage, will depend on the region and provider. But Telus said it will sell for $549.99.

The new PlayBook is also ready for corporate email systems and keeps business information secure and separate from personal information, RIM said.

However, PC Magazine analyst Sascha Segan said any anticipation is for RIM's next generation of smartphones called BlackBerry 10. "Consumers are past the PlayBook now and they're waiting to see what happens with BlackBerry 10," said Segan, lead analyst for mobile devices.

The BlackBerry 10 smartphones, expected to be even more like mobile computers, are due out in 2013, about a year later than RIM had announced - leaving the company with an older inventory of smartphones to sell.

"RIM is in a tough spot now because it needs to keep putting out some products while it waits for BlackBerry 10. So the PlayBook LTE is a way to show that RIM can keep up with current network technologies even as it's mostly geared toward revving up for BlackBerry 10," Segan said from New York.

In addition to a faster Internet experience with LTE (Long-Term Evolution) technology, RIM's new PlayBook will give users clearer and smoother video streaming, multi-party video conferencing capabilities and fewer delays when there are multiple video game players, he said.

The original PlayBook was launched in April 2011, but sales have been slow and RIM has discounted some of the models amid stiff competition. RIM is phasing out the 16 GB PlayBook, which was retailing for as little as $199 to focus on higher-end models.

Segan noted the latest PlayBook was supposed to be out last fall and was announced in February 2011. "This is a fast-moving industry and the competitive situation changes quickly."

The PlayBook has largely been overshadowed by Apple's iPad as well as tablets from Samsung and Motorola.