RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis is unsure about the long term prospects for tablets, but RIM partners believe the company is capable of bringing a RIM tablet to market that would give the iPad a run for its money.
Speculation about a Blackberry tablet flared over the weekend when the Blackberry Leaks blog reported that RIM is developing a device that's "smaller and thinner than the iPad" and features full Blackberry OS compatibility and functionality. Code-named "BlackPad," the device won't be available until next year and could be unveiled at RIM's WES 2011 event, according to the report, which quotes a single unnamed source.
Asked for comment, a RIM spokesperson cited the company's policy of not commenting on rumors and speculation. Likewise, RIM partners didn't want to comment directly on the rumors.
But if RIM does in fact have a Blackberry tablet in the offing that runs Blackberry OS, partners believe its ability to interface with the Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) would offer many advantages.
RIM has worked with corporate IT for years to provide the security and remote management that's required in many enterprise and government environments. Allen Nogee, an analyst with In-Stat in Scottsdale, Ariz., says this experience would be an important tablet differentiator.
"Blackberry remains the de facto device to remotely read mail from an Outlook Server, or provide some interaction with a corporate network," Nogee said.
Dan Croft, president and CEO of Mission Critical Wireless, a solution provider in Lincolnshire, Ill., agrees. "Utilizing BlackBerry technology instead of Outlook Web Access (OWA) for example, would be a huge improvement to a road warrior," he said.
Steve Beauregard, president of Santa Monica, Calif.-based mobility solution provider Regard Solutions, believes RIM's strong security reputation would give it a leg up on the competition.
"This alone would drive sales in the public sector and industries like banking and finance where data security concerns are paramount. It may also play well for in vehicle applications," Beauregard said.
RIM could also leverage its broad carrier relationships -- including its Blackberry distribution deals with all four major U.S. carriers -- to drive sales of a Blackberry tablet, according to Nogee. "Having worked with operators from the beginning, RIM is well positioned to know what operators would want in such a device," he said.
Rumors of a Blackberry tablet flared most recently in April when Chinese component supplier Hon Hai -- better known as Foxconn -- apparently let slip that RIM had placed an order for 8.9 inch displays that could be utilized in a tablet.
Interestingly, the response within the Blackberry aficionado community to the tablet rumors has been largely negative. Some published reports have depicted the notion of a Blackberry tablet as foolish, and even possibly disastrous.
A mobile application ecosystem would be critical to a Blackberry tablet's success, but the Blackberry developer environment has been criticized as unfavorable for application development. Last month, Jeff Glueck, CEO of smartphone browser developer Skyfire, explained his company's decision to prioritize Android over Blackberry.
"The APIs are fragmented and inconsistent, and the Java virtual machine Blackberry requires is not efficient. While Blackberry users are desperate for a better browser -- we know, and we hear them -- we only want to bring out something that meets our high standards and is truly great," Glueck wrote in a blog post.