BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion's (RIM) much-anticipated BlackBerry PlayBook tablet launch is right around the corner, and the company will release a new BlackBerry video conferencing app along with the tablet, or shortly thereafter, according to a RIM executive.
I sat down with David Heit, RIM's VP of enterprise strategy, at an event in Boston yesterday to talk about the PlayBook and its upcoming launch. Though RIM has not yet announced any official release date for the PlayBook, which will be initially available as a Wi-Fi-only unit with cellular versions expected this summer, current rumors suggest the PlayBook tablet will be released on April 10.
While it is no surprise that the PlayBook tablet will support video conferencing--its telltale rear- and front-facing cameras are clearly meant for video conferencing--it was uncertain until this point whether the PlayBook would employ some kind of third-party app, such as Skype, for the functionality.
The PlayBook will use a new, peer-to-peer video-conferencing app, not unlike Apple's FaceTime video chat app, meant for consumer use, to enable BlackBerry video conferencing, according to Heit. And it's expected to be released "very soon," the RIM executive says, which suggests the app will launch along with the PlayBook.
It's still unclear how the app will work, and if PlayBook users will only be able to video conferencing with other PlayBook owners, but answers to those questions should come along with the device launch in the coming weeks.
Current BlackBerry smartphones do not feature front-facing cameras, so it seems unlikely that this new BlackBerry video conferencing app will be available for handhelds any time soon. In fact, leaked information on the next-generation of BlackBerry smartphones, which are expected to become available in late 2011, suggests that these new devices won't have front-facing cameras either, so it could be some time before BlackBerry handheld users get any sort of video conferencing app, if they do at all.
In other words, the BlackBerry video conferencing app will likely be PlayBook-specific.
For more details on the BlackBerry PlayBook and the enterprise, read "iPad 2 vs. BlackBerry PlayBook: 7 Business Considerations."