Research in Motion showed off the capabilities of its new tablet device, and called corporate interest in the device massive.

RIM for the first time on Wednesday provided a hands-on demonstration of the PlayBook, a seven-inch touchscreen tablet that will go head-to-head with Apple's iPad when it ships, likely in March.

In large companies, they're talking deployment in the tens of thousands, said Jeff McDowell, senior vice president of enterprise and platform marketing for RIM.

RIM's tablet is perhaps the most anticipated iPad rival in a sea of new competitors bent on challenging Apple and stealing a piece of a fast-growing market that is expected to top 50 million units next year.

For a graph comparing global PCs sales and projections for tablets, click here:

The PlayBook performed smoothly as it went through its paces, loading websites and applications quickly and playing Flash-based videos on the Internet with ease.

The software allows for multi-tasking and features a rotating carousel that shows all the programs that the device is running. A simple finger swipe up brings up the home screen, while a swipe out closes programs.

There has been plenty of debate in recent weeks about the PlayBook's battery life, a key point of competition in the tablet market. The 10-inch iPad boasts 10 hours of battery life.

McDowell said the PlayBook's battery will last as long or longer than other 7-inch tablets, although he declined to be more specific.

He said concerns about Flash programs draining battery life were absurd generalizations.

RIM is betting that its reputation for security and reliability will make the PlayBook a favorite in corporate IT departments.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs has singled out the PlayBook for criticism, saying that seven-inch tablets will be dead on arrival when they hit the market.

RIM has plenty riding on the PlayBook. Once a darling of Wall Street, the company is having a hard time convincing investors that it is well-positioned to combat Apple and Google in the booming market for smartphones and tablets.

Shares in RIM spiked sharply in heavy volume in the last hour of Nasdaq trade to end the session 4.8 percent higher at $61.92. RIM's Toronto Stock Exchange-listed shares closed 4.4 percent higher at C$61.70.

(Reporting by Gabriel Madway)