BlackBerry maker RIM on Monday announced the Blackberry PlayBook, an iPad-like tablet device that it will begin selling in early 2011. But while the PlayBook appears to look and work much like Apple's device, RIM is targeting it at its core business audience instead, offering the compatibility, functionality, and security that enterprises expect.

"RIM set out to engineer the best professional-grade tablet in the industry with cutting-edge hardware features and one of the world's most robust and flexible operating systems," said RIM President and Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis. "The BlackBerry PlayBook solidly hits the mark with industry leading power, true multitasking, uncompromised web browsing, and high performance multimedia."

The operating system Lazaridid mentions is not, however, the same OS that powers the company's smartphones. Instead, the PlayBook will utilize QNX Neutrino, a UNIX-like system made by QNX Software Systems, which RIM purchased earlier this year.

The PlayBook will be more portable than the iPad, with a 7-inch screen (as opposed to the iPad's 9.7-inch display), and sub-one-pound weight. (The iPad weighs 1.5-1.6 pounds.)  It features a 1024 x 640 resolution screen (where the iPad's is 1024 x 768), a 1 GHz dual-core processor, 1 GB of RAM, Wi-Fi networking, and dual cameras. Some specs are up in the air currently, including onboard storage, and RIM says that 3G and 4G networking options will be made available later. RIM hasn't announced pricing either.

Where the PlayBook really departs from the iPad, um, playbook is in its focus on the enterprise. The device will be compatible with BlackBerry Enterprise Server, can be fully controlled by IT admins, and comes with all of the security and management controls expected by that audience. Through a unique tie-in with the company's BlackBerry devices, RIM says that the PlayBook will be able to link securely over Bluetooth and view data from the smartphone on the tablet. This negates the need to sync or duplicate data, RIM notes.

The PlayBook also supports some important technologies Apple ignores, including Adobe Flash and AIR. And Amazon has already announced a version of its Kindle eBook reader software for the device.

While the need for a simplistic tablet device in business is unclear, RIM's understanding of the security and management needs of business could win some converts. RIM sees the PlayBook as negating the need for a laptop, especially for business travelers who need constant access to their email and scheduling data. By tying the tablet to its popular smartphones, it hopes to open up a new market for businesses just as Apple did with the iPad for consumers.