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RIM plans two more PlayBooks for 2011

BARCELONA, Spain–Research in Motion plans to release two more BlackBerry PlayBook tablets in the second half of 2011, one with LTE and one with HSPA+ networking technology, the company announced at the Mobile World Congress here today.

RIM already had announced a Wi-Fi-only tablet and one using the WiMax wireless networking technology. LTE and HSPA+, though, are much more broadly accepted in the mobile market, if not necessarily widely installed.

In the ever hotter tablet market, the competition presently is largely between incumbent power Apple and a number of Android-based challengers such as the Motorola Xoom and the newly announced Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. RIM hopes its BlackBerry models will find a foothold as well.

The biggest hurdle many of these products need to surmount today is shipping, but after that comes sales partnerships with carriers and retailers, and application development with programmers.

The initial PlayBook models are set to ship in the second quarter of 2011.

Programming is complicated by the fact that the BlackBerry tablet operating system isn’t Android or iOS, the two dominant mobile operating systems today. Even Nokia, a smartphone pioneer, has thrown its hat in the Windows ring in an attempt to build a third powerful rival. RIM is working away on its own ecosystem, though, and today said its BlackBerry App World now operates in 101 countries.

RIM today also announced it’s the lead backer of a second BlackBerry Partners Fund, a $150 million effort to invest in mobile-computing start-ups. This fund has an international focus, RIM said.

“We are now building on the BlackBerry PlayBook’s many advantages with support for additional 4G networks that will allow enhanced business opportunities for carriers and developers and unparalleled mobile experiences for users,” said RIM Co-Chief Executive Mike Lazaridis in a statement.

Also today, RIM said it has a partnership with Telefonica worldwide for carrier billing, which lets people pay for apps on their mobile subscription bill rather than with a credit card.

Updated 2:51 a.m. PT with further details.

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