The Canadian company behind the BlackBerry is branching out with a tablet computer meant to compete with Apple's popular iPad.

Research in Motion Ltd. unveiled its PlayBook tablet on Monday, pledging to launch the device in early 2011, less than a year after Apple Inc. kickstarted the tablet market with the iPad.

The PlayBook would be rolled out internationally later in the year.

The device's 17.8-centimetre screen makes it half the size of the iPad. It is also lighter, about 0.4 kilograms to the iPad's 0.7 kilograms. But unlike its rival, the PlayBook will boast two high-definition cameras, one on the front and one on the back.

The tablet will work both independently and in connection with a BlackBerry phone, through a secure short-range wireless link, the company said Monday. Outside of wi-fi range, it will be able to access the web by linking to BlackBerry cellular service.

The tablet is meant to offer the full computer experience, making it less dependent on third-party applications, said RIM co-Chief Executive Jim Balsillie.

"I don't need to download a YouTube app if I've got YouTube on the web," said Balsillie, who leads the company along with co-CEO Mike Lazaridis.

"Much of the market has been defined in terms of how you fit the web to mobility," Balsillie said. "What we're launching is really the first mobile product that is designed to give full web fidelity."

Analysts say the company's close connections with the corporate world could help it seize a decent portion of the tablet market despite Apple's head start.

"We do think that RIM has a play with enterprise customers because it has established relationships with so many businesses, and its technology is so deeply integrated with their IT departments," IDC analyst Susan Kevorkian told The Canadian Press.

CTV's tech expert Kris Abel said the price tag for the device hasn't been announced, but the company's approach to launching the device makes sense.

"It's very impressive," he said. "They're playing to their strengths. They said, ‘"Look, business users are our people -- we're going to start with them and then we'll grow from there.'"

Blackberry will likely target more diverse target markets with the second generation of the PlayBook, Abel said.

RIM isn't the only one rushing to compete with the iPad: Dell Inc. came out with the Streak tablet in August, and Samsung Electronics Co. plans to launch the Galaxy Tab next month. Cisco Systems Inc. is also targeting the business community with a tablet called the Cius, slated for release next year.

IDC predicts that roughly 11 per cent of overall tablet shipments, or 6.5 million units, will be to businesses, government agencies or schools by 2014. That would be up from just 2 per cent, or 300,000 units, this year. That figure doesn't include consumers who buy tablet computers on their own and use them for work.

With files from The Associated Press