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Summary:

We’ve been hearing rumors that RIM is hard at work on a BlackBerry companion tablet, fueled by reports that the company has ordered 8.9-inch displays for such a device. The question that keeps popping up every time I think of such an effort is — why?

BB Storm

If a BlackBerry tablet fell in a forest, would anybody hear it? We’ve been hearing rumors that RIM is hard at work on a BlackBerry companion tablet, fueled by reports that the company has ordered 8.9-inch displays for such a device. The question that keeps popping up every time I think of such an effort is — why? Sure, tablets are the hot ticket in mobile tech currently, but just pushing one to market isn’t going to guarantee a success.

A BlackBerry tablet would be intended to compete with the iPad and upcoming Android tablets obviously. These tablets certainly bear watching given the sales volume Apple has already achieved with the iPad, and the expectation that Android tablets will be cheap enough to make good sales numbers. But RIM lacks one thing required to make a competitive product — a viable OS.

The BlackBerry OS is dated and the next big version has only recently been put on display. It certainly looks like the UI has been updated and is more modern than the older version, but it’s still not clear how good the touch operation will be. A good touch interface is absolutely required for a tablet device, and it’s not a given that BlackBerry OS 6 will provide it.

It’s not even clear if BlackBerry enthusiasts want a device with a touch interface. They stayed away from the BlackBerry Storm in droves, the company’s only phone without a physical keyboard. The BlackBerry has long been famous for its keyboards, and a tablet certainly wouldn’t have one of those. While BlackBerry 6 may do a better job incorporating touch controls than previous versions, it is designed to run the BlackBerry phone line, and that is almost exclusively non-touch.

The tablet rumors indicate that RIM is building a tablet without phone capability; it’s expected to use Wi-Fi for connectivity. That’s like the original iPad, but Apple planned the 3G version from the get-go to also allow the iPad to be a stand-alone mobile device for those who desired it. The RIM tablet is said to be a “BlackBerry companion”, and will mate with a BlackBerry smartphone to share user data. That sounds like the ill-fated Palm Foleo, and to believe there is a market for such a device now doesn’t make a lot of sense.

It’s not clear why RIM would produce such a tablet, and even less clear who might buy one. Let’s hope these BlackBerry tablet rumors are just that.

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub. req’d): How Microsoft Can Win Back the Tablet Market

  1. I agree with your take on the situation – though I see the lack of a good target audience (or target market) a bigger problem than the out-dated OS. After all, they are hard at work on a new version, and while it’s still a bit off, a hypothetical tablet is also probably a way off. Also, they might have been working on a different version of the OS for touch devices.

    The target audience is a bigger problem. I do freelance writing for a tech magazine, and everyone there uses Blackberries (and has used them for some time) because of the good email handling, as well as the other enterprise features. Not long ago, we played around with a touch Blackberry and no one was impressed (I even heard the comment that if you want touch, buy an iPhone). Blackberry users are just too dependent on the good keyboards on these devices.

    Also, an iPad (and all of these ‘lay back’ devices) is made mostly for having fun, taking a break. Of course you can do ‘real work’ on it, I see it as a useful tool for doing research, but having a tablet for business-oriented customers? To do what, run spreadsheets, type word documents and work with email? I just don’t see it. I admit that it can be a good tool for caring around to meetings and while traveling, but I just see a netbook (or a tablet PC, or even a MacBook Air) as a better choice.

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  2. “It’s not clear why RIM would produce such a tablet, and even less clear who might buy one. Let’s hope these BlackBerry tablet rumors are just that.”

    Can you tell me what this means?? It’s like you say: “competition in new market is bad”. For whom?! It’s RIM’s R&D money after all.. Honestly i would be more prone to buy RIM tablet than iPad.. if it will have good productivity tools then why not. Plaster a Stantum resistive screen on that and you got some serious competitor, after all it’s not some Indiand company we’re talking about. They got money to burn even if it could end up in a failed product.

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  3. I agree, RIM should stick with what they’re good at — Keyboard non-touch phones. At least until they get Blackberry OS 6 out and as you say, prove themselves in the touchscreen phone market. After all RIM is a phone manufacturer, and they should at least test out the waters with a touch device on the new OS, so they wont get any bad PR for releasing what could be a very bad tablet.

    From what I’ve read of the storm, it’s not the best touchscreen phone out there, and they probably made it even worse without the sure press technology in the original storm. That’s my 2 cents.

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  4. It sounds an interesting concept and the ability to tether with my Blackberry sounds great.

    I’m still not sure why some people slate the Blackberry OS, my previous phone ran WinMo 6.5, plus I’ve played with my colleagues Iphone and the productivity speed of the Blackberry OS is leagues ahead. I’m hoping RIM don’t ruin their OS by adding pretty animations and fancy crap that would just blog down the device. I still want an IPad but for completely different purposes to my phone.

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  5. No.
    Bad etiquette perhaps but here’s what I wrote about 3 weeks ago on this:

    http://brianshall.com/content/blackberry-tablet-get-serious

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  6. They stayed away from the Storm because it was a lousy device and UI. RIM in my opinion needs a entirely new OS, maybe they should have bought Palm. They should not waste their money with a tablet using the terrible UI and OS they now have. A simple facelift or update will not do it.

    Even Microsoft has conceded this with Windows Mobile.

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  7. why is rim thinking about a tablet when they should be amping up their storm os. i love rim but how can this table work? If they made their touchscreen phones more user friendly they would know how to make a tablet user friendly. I mean we still dont even have 6.0!

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    1. I see nothing with blackberry 6.0 to suggest its much different from it’s predecessors.

      I am a blackberry owner of 6yrs (work issued) and RIM has been passed and lapped by the competitors… with the exception of messenging.

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  8. blackberry tablet? ha ha ha!

    NO THANKS!

    can you imagine the browser? How about the apps? lol

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