It’s only a month since BlackBerry OS 6 was first touted as the fix-all for Research in Motion’s (RIM) software problems and its failure to keep pace with Android and iOS. But reports about its much-rumoured tablet suggest RIM’s entire approach is about to change, with its slate leading the way.
The BlackPad, or SurfBook depending on which gossip hound you’re inclined to believe, is set to be unleashed at a BlackBerry developers’ conference next week, according to insiders who’ve spoken to the Wall Street Journal. At seven-inches long and with dual cameras, it’s rumoured to be focused on business users. No surprises there. But it’s the software that’s really got tongues wagging and points to the tablet marking a sea change for RIM.
These same insiders have seemingly confirmed what has been talked up for weeks. Namely that RIM will be bringing an entirely new OS to its tablet, built by recently acquired software firm QNX. Little is known about exactly what this operating system will look like, but what is remarkably telling is that the sources claim is plotting to roll out the same OS into its phones.
Coming so soon after BlackBerry OS 6’s arrival, this might seem surprising. But the Torch’s somewhat muted reception and the general antipathy towards a system which is simply not as intuitive or smart as either Android or iOS means this could be a clever move.
If this is the case, and it increasingly appears that it is, then the so-called BlackPad will mark a turning point for RIM and show that it’s not afraid to jettison its image as a solid but staid phone maker to prove that it’s still in the game.
Of course, the tablet will need to be pretty special to land a punch on the iPad and Galaxy Tab. But it does have an advantage in that it’ll be sold off-contract, with a smartphone required for tethering it to the mobile web. This will make it attractive to those already loaded up with a hefty monthly price plan who don’t want to shell out extra every four weeks for a tablet.
But it also seems that rather than being a QNX-backed one-off, the BlackPad is going to be a stepping stone for RIM, a way it can compete in the very top end with a new-look OS and make itself appeal more greatly to both workaholics and media fanatics.
That’s the gap it’s desperate to bridge and with its business background, it’s something it’s very well-placed to achieve. Whisper it, but the BlackBerry Tablet could well be the game-changing gadget of 2010. All we need now is RIM to actually go ahead and give it its official blessing.