Speculation about a BlackBerry companion tablet has gained added traction today with the WSJ reporting that such a slate device from RIM is indeed in the works. RIM is also said to be working on a phone with a sliding QWERTY keyboard. An updated web browser in the next OS version coupled with a good keyboard might bring back some customers who have deserted the BlackBerry for the competition.
The touchscreen-sliding keyboard combo is a new approach for RIM, but one the upcoming OS version 6 would utilize to full advantage. RIM has attempted a large touchscreen BlackBerry in the past, but it failed to take the world by Storm. This new model could be a game-changer, though, as it would compete with touchscreen phones like the iPhone 4 yet add a keyboard for which the BlackBerry is famous.
The other device RIM is said to be developing, the tablet, is a strange beast, as it’s designed to act as a companion device for a BlackBerry phone — essentially a second screen for activities undertaken on the phone. This puts it in the realm of the ill-fated Palm Foleo, which was killed just weeks before launch. The resistance to a $500 device that required another one (smartphone) to do anything caused Palm to drop plans for the Foleo. This BlackBerry tablet sounds like the same type of device, but without the keyboard found on the Foleo.
While consumer interest in the tablet is unclear, the new BlackBerry phone may be a good product for RIM given the popularity of using smartphones to access the web. The large screen coupled with a big keyboard would make this the best BlackBerry for surfing the web. Timing on the release of these products is unknown at this point, but perhaps we’ll see them by the end of the year. RIM has stated that a new phone with a new web browser and OS 6 will ship by September, so perhaps these new devices will appear then.
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