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BlackBerry Tablet: Timely or Folly?

The Wall Street Journal says Research in Motion (s rimm) will be launching the long-rumored BlackBerry Tablet early next week at its developer’s conference in San Francisco. The BlackPad, as it has been called by the press, is timed to help RIM compete with the iPad (s aapl) and the scores of Android (s goog) tablets expected to hit the market in the next few months. If the rumors about the BlackPad pan out, RIM is either right on time to be competitive, or is shooting itself in the foot by tanking its brand-new smartphone operating system.

The BlackBerry tablet is firmly in the rumor category, but the WSJ article outlined enough detail to ratchet up speculation about what RIM might be planning. The 7-inch tablet is reportedly being manufactured by Quanta Computer of Taiwan, and will use chips from Marvell Technology Group (s mrvl). The operating system on the slate will not be RIM’s recently launched BlackBerry OS 6, but instead, will be an OS from QNX Software Systems, a company purchased by RIM earlier this year. QNX is known for making software used in mission-critical settings and automotive applications; it’s an interesting choice to run on a tablet.

RIM’s core business is the BlackBerry smartphone , and the tablet could cast a pall of doubt over that business since the company is passing over the BlackBerry OS 6 for this new QNX platform. The app ecosystem is vital to both the smartphone world and tablet ventures, and with two platforms in play, RIM will be creating a mass of confusion for developers. It will be difficult to get apps built for the tablet, and it may cause current BlackBerry smartphone app developers to drop out over uncertainty about the future of the platform. That would be very disruptive to RIM’s core business.

The rumors say that RIM will be moving its smartphone line to the QNX solution in the future. If that’s true, this could totally derail RIM’s effort to maintain smartphone market share in a highly competitive segment. The BlackBerry OS 6 has been heavily promoted by RIM of late, and to drop it for a new OS sends a terrible message to carriers, developers and customers.

I elaborated earlier this year why a BlackBerry tablet isn’t a good idea, and this new information about the BlackPad doesn’t change anything. If anything, it makes the outlook worse, as it’s looking like not only can the new tablet be an albatross around RIM’s neck, it could tank its core smartphone business. That’s a heck of a risk for any company to take.

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13 Responses to “BlackBerry Tablet: Timely or Folly?”

  1. I just came back from Cedia show in the big Atl. I saw ipads controlling everything. These pads are about HMI. Human touch interface to a system. Is that HTMI? Playbook, or whatever, is the ultimate product for this sector. Bring on the Apps!

  2. Montevale

    What are the other options for the blackberry there?
    Unless the technology brings folding screens – this is it!
    Can’t make the phones bigger then they are already, bold/storm/torch are about the perfect form for a device. Unless the technology advances bring us folding screens, the PADS is where the growth will happen.
    We do need more of these devices and from every platform and we WILL see them – this is a full blown war. The same wars we saw with the PC’s where windows became the king, PDA’s became Palm Pilots and the iPod became the iPod of choice.
    Those wars are over and we have new ones raging on.

    This new iPads, BlackPads, XPads will become the extension of your phone. These portable operating systems will mature and the silicon development will catch up to the needs of running multitasking without running out of juice in one hour and there will be few killer apps that will blow the lid wide open.
    Seriously, I would love to get an extension device for my aging Bold 9000 that would allow me to have something with a bigger screen to work on attachments, look at the dbase when I need to, hand sign some pdf(s) and email them back without getting printer/fax/scanner involved in the mix. This would be the out of the office tool of choice, I have an x61T for two years now and it is a great device, that fulfill this extension but the time goes on and I know that in another year will it will be time for replacement and I can tell you that it is not going to be another convertible. If I would have to replace my system today I would be seriously looking at the iPhone + iPad combo.
    Common RIM bring it on let us see what you can do.

  3. Success will depend on how well RIM deals with the various efforts to break encrypted email – the key to its success.

    If this can work like the BlackBerry Enterprise then it may make it (provided it is not too lame) if not it will die faster than Microsoft’s last cell phone.

  4. Folks, while I don’t disagree that RIM faces an uphill battle against Apple and Android, before pronouncing this new product as an abject failure, perhaps we should wait for an actual announcement with actual product details? While they may well have fallen behind the times, the people who founded and run RIM aren’t stupid. Don’t they actually deserve the benefit of least getting to announce and describe their product before everyone starts tsk-tsking?

  5. yea, i call FAIL on this one. just like the Blackberry Storm, they are not giving the users what they want. for example, RIM should have made the Storm a horizontal slider w/touchscreen and not just a touchscreen phone; the mobile/business users wanted it but never got it and i still believe it would have sold very well at the time.

    for companion devices, i still would love a nice looking watch that doubled as a speaker phone, caller id, media playback, and a watch (communications between watch and phone via bt). there are a few out there but why hasn’t the watch industry picked up on this sect?

  6. We really don’t need another ‘companion device’. I think what potential users of a tablet are really looking for is a real computer with full functionality (including expandable storage and USB ports)and OS. Oh, and at a price that is reflective of the new computer reality.

    It’s called laptop.
    An iPad is not a laptop. It doesn’t try to be a laptop and it will over time not become a laptop.
    If you believe the iPad is only driven by a hype you make a serious error. But so does RIM.

    The iPad even more than the iPhone will be defined by apps. Some of the core apps are pre installed or freely available (video, books, internet) and entertainment like Angry Birds is important, but to really stay in the market place for a long time it needs more than that. I think the OmniGroup apps, Pages or the rumoured port of AutoCAD for iPad give a good idea of the direction.

    The iPad has the advantage of having a good development platform which has proven it’s merits on touch devices (iPhone) and on large screens (Mac) before. That would be the thing they need to copy and none of the companies besides Google has much experience with a publicly available programming environment.


  7. This reminds me of how Reagan won the cold war against the Soviet Union. Outspend an opponent who feels compelled to match each initiative, until the opponent, in this case RIM, gets stretched too thin and breaks into pieces. Classic battle strategy – did in Hitler and Nazi Germany too when they were spread thin in Russia over winter. Perhaps RIM should focus its resources on catching up in its core market…

  8. We really don’t need another ‘companion device’. I think what potential users of a tablet are really looking for is a real computer with full functionality (including expandable storage and USB ports)and OS. Oh, and at a price that is reflective of the new computer reality.

    For all the hype, the current iPad fails on many of these fronts. Of course, it was never intended to be anything more than a companion device to the iTunes Store – certainly not be a cheaper alternative to their Macs. And the tablets coming out by Samsung and the like are offering smartphone OSs tweaked to a larger screen – again, far from fully functioning devices.

    And now RIM wants to release a companion device with yet another OS? What’s the point?