RIM Building 2.5M BlackPad Tablets for Q4: Analyst

Research In Motion expects to build 2.5 million BlackPad tablets for the fourth quarter. Expect BlackPad for the enterprise, not as a rival to Apple iPad or Android tablets.

Research In Motion expects to build 2.5 million BlackPad tablets for the fourth quarter, said a financial analyst.

The Wall Street Journal reported Sept. 22 that RIM will unveil the BlackPad at its 2010 BlackBerry Developer Conference, which runs from Sept. 27 through Sept. 30 in San Francisco.

While RIM did not comment on the report or the tablet number for eWEEK, the Journal said the 7-inch-screen BlackPad, which will sport two cameras, including one for video conferencing, will feature a new platform built by QNX Software Systems.

RIM, which acquired QNX from Harman in April, expects to launch this device in the fourth quarter this year to compete with Apple's iPad and tablets based on Google's Android operating system, such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Archos line of Android machines. Apple shipped 3.27 million iPads in the third quarter.

Susquehanna Research analyst Jeffrey Fidacaro, who learned from his sources RIM is building 2.5 million BlackPads, said he has reached out to some ISV contacts to see if RIM built the machine on QNX.

Some industry watchers expressed surprise that the tablet isn't based on the new BlackBerry 6 operating system, which powers the BlackBerry Torch.

Industry analyst Jack Gold noted QNX has a lot of expertise building real-time, embedded systems for the auto and entertainment, "so I have no doubt they can design a pretty compelling environment for a tablet."

Assuming the BlackPad is built on QNX, Gold wonders how or if it will be compatible with existing BlackBerry smartphones and tie into the BlackBerry Enterprise Server infrastructure to ensure compatibility with existing corporate device and application installations.

Fidacaro questioned RIM's tablet strategy in general.

"I question the use case for the BlackPad as RIM lacks access to content," Fidacaro told eWEEK. "And the device appears to be designed to tether to a BlackBerry not standalone 3G baseband."

However, Gold said RIM needs to play in the tablet space just as Nokia, Motorola and all the rest of the mobile players do.

"Many companies are looking at deploying tablets for their workforces. If a RIM tablet comes in as a secure, manageable device, like the BB phones, and companies want to use a tablet, then the RIM device could have an edge in the market for business users (not necessarily for consumers)."

Gartner Research analyst Carolina Milanesi agreed, noting that RIM should build around security and concentrate on enterprise apps rather than trying to go after a consumer audience.

"Most vendors will go after consumers with a higher focus on content consumption and entertainment than productivity," Milanesi added. "There are certainly verticals that continue to prefer RIM as a smartphone provider that might be looking for a tablet."

Indeed, Gold said the BlackPad needn't try to live up to the iPad or worry about challenging the phalanx of Android tablets dotting the big touch-screen landscape.

"It needs to help business be more productive," Gold said. "If it does that well, and is rugged, secure and easy to manage, it should be successful. Of course, it also has to appeal to the user, so some amount of consumerized features (i.e., good webkit-based browser, media capability) will be required as well."