Research In Motion could be prepping a BlackBerry tablet PC-allegedly named the BlackPad-for unveiling as soon as next week, according to reports spreading online.
Those reports cite a Sept. 21 Wall Street Journal article, which itself paraphrased unnamed "people familiar with RIM's plans." That article suggests the BlackPad will be released in the fourth quarter of 2010, with "a completely new platform built by QNX Software Systems" as its operating system. It will also include integrated cameras, possibly for video conferencing, and a 7-inch touch screen.
RIM has refused to comment on the rumors. When contacted by eWEEK about the possibility of a tablet-themed event the week of Sept. 27, a company spokesperson said: "The only RIM event next week is the Developer Conference that runs Monday through Thursday. There will be keynotes from one of the co-CEOs and other C-level execs, and RIM tends to drop news at these types of events."
The Journal article insists that the tablet could be announced during that conference.
Despite RIM's veil of secrecy, various third-party vendors seem on board with a tablet. In a widely circulated Sept. 21 e-mail, a spokesperson for virtualization company Citrix Systems claimed the company would support "the upcoming BlackBerry Black Pad."
In a follow-up note, the spokesperson said, "We don't have any additional info to share from RIM" despite Citrix being "committed to support[ing] the Black Pad when it is released."
In response to the Apple iPad's massive success, other manufacturers have rushed into the consumer tablet market. Samsung and its carrier partners are preparing to release the 7-inch Galaxy Tab, which includes an enhanced TFT-LCD display with 1,024-by-600 resolution, Android 2.2 operating system, 1GHz processor, 16GB of internal memory scalable to 32GB of external memory, and support for Adobe Flash 10.1. Dell is already marketing the 5-inch Streak, which sells for $299 with an AT&T contract and $549.99 unlocked. And Hewlett-Packard is reportedly preparing tablets to run both its recently acquired Palm WebOS and Windows 7.
But RIM would likely focus more on creating a tablet for business users, the traditional audience for BlackBerry products. If the details in the Journal's article prove correct, RIM's new BlackBerry 6 OS will not be used in the tablet; nonetheless, that operating system's attempt to straddle the consumer and business spheres could hint at RIM's approach to the larger-screen format. In addition to enterprise-centric features such as Word To Go and Sheet To Go, the BlackBerry 6 OS offers easy access to YouTube, social networks such as Facebook and MySpace, music, videos, and the Web.