BlackPad: Half BlackBerry, half iPad

BlackPad could bring the corporate clout of BlackBerry to the sleek form factor of a tablet computer.

BlackPad in RIM's future? The BlackBerry-maker could introduce a new tablet as early as next week.

As early as next week, RIM, the maker of BlackBerry, could unveil a tablet computer codenamed the BlackPad. The Wall Street Journal reports that such a device could pair the corporate clout of BlackBerry with the form factor of the wildly popular iPad.

RIM has not confirmed such a device, but the Journal's anonymous sources suggest the BlackPad could debut at an upcoming developers' conference in San Francisco and go on sale before the end of the year.

The tablet will sport a seven-inch touch screen, up to two cameras, and Bluetooth to connect with headsets and other devices. (The iPad features a 9.7-inch screen, zero cameras – although the iPhone 4 has two – and Bluetooth service.) However, the most interesting aspect is its cellular plan. The Journal says the BlackPad will offer mobile Internet, but only through another BlackBerry smartphone. In other words, you'll need to already own a BlackBerry to get the most out of a BlackPad.

This won't be a problem for many people. BlackBerry is the most popular smartphone brand in America. But its market share is eroding to Android and Apple's iOS line. Between April and July, RIM fell two percentage points, from 41 to 39 percent – not so bad. Yet at the same time, Android climbed five percentage points, from 12 to 17 percent. Could this slip herald the end of the BlackBerry era? Or, could the new tablet reinvigorate RIM? Part of the answer will rely on the BlackTab's software:

"In a significant development, RIM's tablet will eschew the recently revamped BlackBerry 6 operating system in favor of a completely new platform built by QNX Software Systems," the Journal writes. "RIM bought QNX, a maker of operating systems used in everything from cars to nuclear reactors, earlier this year, in what industry watchers said was a bid to replace software criticized as slow and buggy."

This is a curious move. Apple has done very well with porting its iOS from iPhones to the iPad with minimal adjustments. Many companies are doing the same with Android, although Google says it is developing a tablet-specific OS separate from Android. Either way, RIM made much ado about its newly introduced BlackBerry 6 operating system this summer. And there doesn't seem to be anything in particular about BlackBerry 6 that wouldn't translate to a tablet. Then again, the Journal says RIM would like to eventually bring QNX software to all BlackBerry devices. A fresh start, of sorts.

Are you interested in a BlackPad? Let us know in the comments.

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