Rival tablet manufacturers have finally managed to inch closer to Apple in one key area: price.

With the Blackberry Playbook, RIM has reproduced Apple's pricing model for the iPad. Similar to Apple's tablet, the 16GB model of the Playbook is $499. RIM is also preparing 32GB and 64GB models of the tablet, which will cost $599 and $699 respectively.

Samsung has followed a similar model with the Galaxy Tab 8.9. At $469, the 16GB version of the tablet actually beats the price of Apple's iPad 2. Samsung prices the 32GB model of the tablet at $569.

Samsung and RIM have managed to succeed in an area where previous tablets have not. Motorola's Xoom tablet, for example, was the subject of wide distaste when Motorola announced that the 32GB 3G version of the tablet would retail for $799. At $599, even the 32GB WiFi version of the Xoom tops the least expensive version of the iPad 2.

Much of the reason for Apple's price advantage lies in the company's large chain of retail stores, noted Tech Republic writer Jason Hiner last month. That means that Apple can set the retail price of the iPad at a precipitously low number, Hiner wrote, arguing that Apple's real profits come from not from stores like Best Buy but from its own retail chain.

Whatever the reason for Apple's low iPad price point, rival tablet manufacturers are sure to benefit from meeting it when their tablets arrive. While RIM's Blackberry Playbook will be available April 19, Samsung has only announced a summer release date for its Galaxy Tab 8.9.