updated 06:05 pm EDT, Tue September 21, 2010
Hints emerge RIM may unveil BlackBerry tablet soon
(Update: hardware details) RIM may use BlackBerry DevCon to unveil its repeatedly rumored BlackBerry-related tablet. A San Francisco event on Monday, before the conference in earnest, is said to be very secretive by ZDNet and might precede the actual keynotes for the event, which start with co-CEO Mike Lazaridis' presentation at Moscone Center West. While not necessarily a revelation by itself, it would come just as major companies like Citrix are reportedly promoting services and other products that would support a RIM tablet when ready.
Whether or not the tablet would get an unveiling is uncertain. Most rumors have had RIM rushing the tablet for November to avoid ceding too many holiday sales to the iPad, but RIM so far hasn't dropped any clues to hardware so far. A call discussing its latest results only made mention of DevCon focusing primarily on widgets and boosting development for BlackBerry 6. Publicly, Lazaridis has been wavering on tablets, saying the market for tablets wasn't clear.
Multiple conflicting rumors have emerged for what the device would do or even would be called. RIM has both bought up the BlackPad web domain and filed for a SurfBook trademark. Some have suggested it may have a 1GHz processor and cameras as a fully independent device, while others have treated it as a slave device like Palm's aborted Foleo companion. The acquisition of QNX was made for "intelligent peripherals" but may play a role.
RIM hasn't commented on the claims and is so far only known to be working on very mild device upgrades for the end of the year, such as the Bold 9780 and Storm3.
The RIM tablet if real is considered by many to be a reaction to being caught off-guard by the unveiling of the iPad in the January. Apple is expected to have not only sold several million iPads within its first half-year but to have garnered rapid adoption in business, undermining RIM's once-secure position.
Update: A major leak [sub. required] now mentions specifications. The tablet would have a seven-inch screen and at least one camera, according to the WSJ tip, but would need to tether with a BlackBerry to get 3G access when outside of Wi-Fi range.
It would not only use a variant of QNX's software but might even be the prelude to transitioning BlackBerry devices over to the QNX foundations in the long term, the new sources added. Its software was designed for car information systems and other embedded areas where reliability, speed and timing are important, but the conservatism may be a RIM asset as it would allegedly be enough to compete with iOS and Android but eliminate the slow performance and crashes that define BlackBerry use.
The slate is still expected to be made by Quanta and would use a Marvell ARM processor at its root, though whether it's the aging chip from the Bold and Torch or a new model isn't evident.