Blackberry Playbook now on sale

Cut the ribbon and turn the page as Research in Motion’s new chapter begins.

The company’s Blackberry Playbook goes on sale at some 20,000 retail locations today, for $500 – $600. Only the Wi-Fi versions of the device are available, with 3G-equipped models coming out later this year.

This isn’t just another tablet launch like the Xoom or Galaxy Tab, though. This is the launch of what’s to come for RIM. If the device sells well, the company will live another day, but if it doesn’t work, RIM will have nearly run out of options.

The Playbook has received its share of scathing reviews, notably because its new operating system nixes most of what put Blackberry on the map – its deep integration with organization and business software.

Because the Blackberry brand has lost more than 10% market share over the last 12 months and hasn’t done anything to reinvigorate itself, the Playbook is seen as the company’s last chance to remain relevant.

RIM’s last move to compete against the new mobile giants was a huge failure. The Blackberry Torch, the first to include RIM’s brand new Blackberry operating system, was seen as nothing more than a minor incremental upgrade to the increasingly-dated Blackberry software. For Playbook, it’s a completely new, from-the-ground-up operating system.