The so-called BlackPad is coming next week, according to a Wall Street Journalreport today about the long-rumored BlackBerry tablet device from Research in Motion. The article says RIM will unveil the tablet at its upcoming developer conference in San Francisco and offers some details on its features including a 7-inch screen, one or two built-in cameras, and Bluetooth and broadband connections.
Most notable, though, is that the device will use a completely new operating system created by QNX Software Systems, which Rim acquired earlier this year and makes software used in everything from air traffic control systems to in-dash radios. Whatever benefits the QNS software brings to the RIM tablet, the move also means the company bypassed its own newly launched BlackBerry 6 OS for the device.
As GigaOm's James Kendrick pointed out, that hardly amounts to a ringing endorsement of RIM's upgraded BlackBerry OS to customers, developers and carriers. It could also create confusion for developers and make it harder for RIM to build up a catalog of apps for the tablet. The Journal story suggested RIM will eventually extend the QNS software to its smartphone line as well.
While the new tablet OS may cause disruption coming on the heels of the latest BlackBerry system upgrade, why should RIM hold it back if it thinks the QNX software is superior to its own solution? Presumably, it bought the company with this kind of step in mind. Putting out what it considers the best product is the best strategy in the long term.
Then there's the larger question of whether the embattled RIM should even get into the tablet market when its core smartphone business is under attack from Google and Apple. Analysts have recently painted a grim picture for the company, losing ground in the enterprise market it's long dominated as more and more companies allow employees to use the smartphone of their choice.
If that's the case, though, then RIM will have to try to compete on every front with Google, Apple and other rivals, across the consumer market and other connected devices. In the nascent tablet category, RIM still has a chance to gain a foothold despite the iPad's early advantage and a crowded field of entrants. The company has demonstrated to investors that it's still trying to grow its overall business and adapt to a changing technology marketplace. So if RIM is going to go down, it might as well go down fighting.