Summary:

Research In Motion’s BlackBerry PlayBook will be available in a model with integrated 4G that uses Sprint’s national WiMAX network. Availability and pricing weren’t provided, but there’s a good chance Sprint will subsidize the PlayBook 4G and help get more customers on its fast data network.

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Updated. The tablet news continues at CES, but this time, it has nothing to do with Android. Research In Motion and Sprint jointly announced plans to launch a version of the BlackBerry PlayBook for Sprint’s national 4G network. Up to now, the PlayBook has been positioned as a Wi-Fi device that could be tethered to a 3G BlackBerry handset.

Neither company had announced pricing or availability details (other than “this summer”), but a 4G PlayBook could get more customers on Sprint’s WiMAX network. I’d expect Sprint to subsidize the 4G PlayBook and keep the price down, although that’s simply an educated guess. And it’s unclear what happens if a PlayBook user strays from a 4G coverage area; without a 3G radio, the PlayBook would be left to use Wi-Fi or a tethered 3G phone for connectivity. Aside from the integrated 4G radio, the device looks to be the same as the previously announced RIM tablet: 1 GHz dual-core processor, 1024 x 600 capacitive touchscreen, multitasking QNX operating system, 1 GB of memory and two cameras.

Earlier tonight, I was able to get some hands-on time with the Wi-Fi version of the PlayBook and I walked away more impressed than I expected. Plus, I can now verify to Om that the device works and exists! Stay tuned for a few minutes of video so you can see for yourself, but the brief experience reminded me of the webOS bits I love — multitasking and elegance — in a form factor that’s appealing. If the device can run on a speedy mobile broadband network, so much the better for mobile enterprise and consumer users.

Update: Representatives from RIM just responded to my question about 3G fallback on the 4G PlayBook. No, the device has only 4G and Wi-Fi, so no 3G when leaving a WiMAX coverage area.

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