When Research in Motion first introduced its upcoming BlackBerry PlayBook, the tablet was tucked away behind glass, leading some conspiracy theorists to proclaim that the device didn’t actually exist (at least not yet). But now the company is starting to show off the device. This morning RIM posted a video comparing the web browsing experience on the PlayBook with the iPad. And this afternoon the folks at Engadget got a chance to spend a few seconds with a prototype.

While the video after the break is too short to give a detailed look at the tablet, here’s what Engadget did find out: It handles multitasking in a way that makes Apple, Google, HP/Palm and Microsoft mobile operating systems look sluggish and outdated.

At first glance, app switching on the PlayBook looks a lot like switching between apps on the Palm Pre running webOS. You have a series of thumbnails showing running apps, and you can flip back and forth between them to open the full app, or drag a thumbnail up to kill the app.

But here’s what’s different: the thumbnails show live previews. Like if you’re watching a video in one screen, you’ll see a live video playing in the thumbnail. That’s because the video can run in the background when you move to another app, and because the hardware and software are powerful enough to show you video previews. It’s kind of like moving from Windows XP to Windows 7 in that respect… but on a mobile device.

Of course, there are times when you want a video to stop playing when you switch to another app, and I hope there’s an option to enable that. But this kind of true multitasking could certainly come in handy for business users tuning into a web conference on the BlackBerry PlayBook. It sounds like you’ll be able to continue listening/watching while flipping away to another app to look up some data before returning the conference to full screen mode.

You can check out Engadget’s brief video after the break.

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5 replies on “BlackBerry PlayBook spotted in the wild, multitasks like a champ”

  1. The multitasking look great, but how much will this hinder the battery life.

  2. “Of course, there are times when you want a video to stop playing when you switch to another app”

    What you meant to say was, “Of course, nobody on earth wants to continue to run videos in the background whilst switching to another app.”

    I suppose they are trying to blind consumers into thinking this thing is something amazing. If that impressed you then you need help.

    1. Actually, being able to play video in the background is not necessarily a bad thing. Depending on the limitations of the hardware for example it could be useful to be able to play a video and show it on an external screen while doing something else with the device…

      Though even if it can’t do that some people actually do let video play in the background while doing something else. Like a video which is mostly just people discussing something doesn’t need you to actually see who’s talking for example and you can surf to gather information while listening. Or you can be watching something you already have watched before and instead of skipping you can let it play and do something else and wait for the parts you like. Point being it can actually be a plus for some people.

      As for trying to blind consumers, everyone should by now consider that par the course as every company wants you to think their product is amazing or cough *magical* cough…

      But the demonstrations are indeed impressive and if even half of what they promise pans out then it could very well become a very successful product.

  3. OK. I didn’t actually think that this slate existed in a working fashion, so I’m surprised, even though it’s only a prototype. It’s worth remembering that of all of the embedded operating systems that are targeting these fingertip slates, QNX is the most complete, developed, and mature. Part of that means that it’s not going to need nearly as many “apps” to extend it’s functionality where to make up for deficiencies, and part of that means that functionality like this multitasking is going to be a well-evolved feature.

    You made an awkward statement: “It’s kind of like moving from Windows XP to Windows 7 in that respect… but on a mobile device.” I feel courageous enough to claim that most laptops, notebooks, netbooks, and tablets that run Windows 7 are mobile devices. The big difference is not that the PlayBook is mobile. The difference it that it’s running hardware and operating systems derived from the embedded space. That’s what makes this impressive, and it is very impressive. This is the difference that a good operating system can make.

    1. Laptops are not mobile.. are portatile.. there is a big difference.

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