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Tuesday, October 19, 2010, 02:55 pm PT (05:55 pm ET)

RIM: Problems with 7-inch tablets only exist in Apple's 'distortion field'

Responding to Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs' claims that a touchscreen tablet with a 7-inch screen is too small to use, a co-CEO of Research in Motion said the comments do not apply to users "who live outside of Apple's distortion field."

The comments made Tuesday by RIM's Jim Balsillie are, of course, meant to defend his company's 7-inch PlayBook tablet set to launch in early 2011. Balsillie said he thinks customers are "getting tired of being told what to think by Apple."

"For those of us who live outside of Apple's distortion field, we know that 7-inch tablets will actually be a big portion of the market and we know that Adobe Flash support actually matters to customers who want a real web experience," Balsillie said in his response. "We also know that while Apple's attempt to control the ecosystem and maintain a closed platform may be good for Apple, developers want more options and customers want to fully access the overwhelming majority of web sites that use Flash."

On Monday, Jobs indirectly took aim at the PlayBook and other forthcoming 7-inch tablet devices when he said that the form factor is too small for users.

"(A 7-inch screen size is) meaningless unless your tablet also includes sandpaper, so that the user can sand down their fingers to around one quarter of their present size," Jobs said. He added that his company has done extensive research on touchscreen interfaces and what works best for users, which is how it arrived at a 9.7-inch display for the iPad.

RIM's co-CEO on Tuesday also took the opportunity to respond to comments Jobs made Tuesday about the iPhone outselling all BlackBerry phones during the September quarter. Apple sold a record 14.1 million iPhones, exceeding Wall Street expectations.

"RIM has achieved record shipments for five consecutive quarters and recently shared guidance of 13.8 (million to) 14.4 million BlackBerry smartphones for the current quarter," Balsillie said. "Apple's preference to compare its September-ending quarter with RIM's August-ending quarter doesn't tell the whole story because it doesn't take into account that industry demand in September is typically stronger than summer months, nor does it explain why Apple only shipped 8.4 million devices in its prior quarter and whether Apple's Q4 results were padded by unfulfilled Q3 customer demand and channel orders."

"As usual, whether the subject is antennas, Flash or shipments, there is more to the story and sooner or later, even people inside the distortion field will begin to resent being told half a story."

Jobs prompted the response by appearing on his company's quarterly earnings conference call on Monday. The Apple co-founder took the opportunity to speak his mind on RIM and Google's Android mobile operating system.

"We've now passed RIM," Jobs said. "I don't see them catching up with us in the foreseeable future. It will be a challenge for them to create a mobile software platform and convince developers to support a third platform."