RIM to Unwrap Tablet PC Based on QNX OS?
Next Monday could mark the day that Research In Motion jumps into the red-hot tablet PC market as speculation abounds that the BlackBerry-maker is prepping a mobile device designed to challenge Apple's iPad and other newcomers such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Reports suggest that RIM (NASDAQ: RIMM) is prepping a mobile device dubbed the "BlackPad" that will be formally unveiled on Monday at a press event in San Francisco prior to the developer conference being held later in the week. The rumors of a RIM tablet have been circulating for some time, but momentum picked up yesterday when virtualization firm Citrix issued some emails stating that the company "confirmed today that [it] will support the upcoming BlackBerry BlackPad when it ships," according to Brian Heater's GearLog.com post suggesting that RIM is prepping a tablet PC. RIM declined to comment when contacted by EnterpriseMobileToday.com, and by press time, Citrix had not yet returned calls seeking comment on the issue. Based on another BlackPad report by the Wall Street Journal's Phred Dvorak, the BlackPad will include a 7-inch touchscreen display, include Bluetooth and a camera, but will only connect to carrier networks through a BlackBerry smartphone.
Perhaps more noteworthy is that the mobile device won't be powered by RIM's refreshed mobile OS, BlackBerry 6, but instead be juiced up by a QNX platform, according to unnamed sources in the WSJ online article. QNX was recently acquired by RIM and makes real-time operating systems (RTOS) for the automotive, industrial, medical, security and networking industries. If reports are true, and the RIM tablet runs on a QNX OS, it raises questions of how the mobile device will fit into the BlackBerry ecosystem. "Does it tie into the BES/BlackBerry infrastructure for companies -- to make sure they are compatible with existing BlackBerrys? And does it have the needed business apps, or is it targeted at the consumer space? QNX has massive amounts of expertise in embedded systems for auto, entertainment, etc. Their OS runs tons of real time operating systems components. And they have lots of multimedia expertise. So I have no doubt they can design a pretty compelling environment for a tablet. But is it a BlackBerry? Or is it just a tablet unrelated to its BlackBerry sibling?" asks Jack Gold, principal of J. Gold Associates, a technology research firm.
Regardless of the OS, moving into the tablet space is a necessary move for any serious player in the wireless sector, and could fit into RIM's overall strategy for increasing sales, Gold told EnterpriseMobileToday.com. "RIM has to play in the tablet space, just as Nokia, Moto and all the rest of the mobile players do. But we shouldnt think of a tablet as a PC -- they really are separate in this class of devices, although there are obviously 'heavier' PC class tablets as well," said Gold. "This is a companion device for web surfing, entertainment, email, and so on. And many companies are looking at deploying tablets for their workforces. If a RIM tablet comes in as a secure, manageable device, like the BlackBerry phones, and companies want to use a tablet, then the RIM device could have an edge in the market for business users, but not necessarily for consumers. That is where I would target the first RIM tablet device." Gold also agrees with those who believe the lucrative mobile device market is big enough for more than one dominant vendor. In short, he said a tablet from RIM does not have to unseat the iPad as the most popular, to help RIM's bottom line. "No, it doesnt (have to sell more than the iPad). It needs to solve a targeted problem. It needs to help business be more productive. If it does that well, and is rugged, secure and easy to manage, it should be successful. Of course, it also has to appeal to the user, so some amount of consumerized features, for instance, a good Webkit-based browser, media capability, will be required as well," Gold said. News of the BlackPad comes at a time when RIM is aggressively branching out beyond its core enterprise base to the consumer market to increase market share and keep pace with rivals Apple and the slew of vendors making Android handsets and mobile devices. With the recent launch of the BlackBerry Torch and the significant update to its stale OS to BlackBerry 6, RIM is trying to answer critics who have claimed that the vendor needs to make significant moves to remain competitive in the fiercely contested wireless market. Meanwhile, the tablet PC market was slow to take off until Apple launched the iPad in April, and now the fourth quarter will see a number of new entries -- all Android tablets -- to the sector, all trying to topple the iPad from the top spot. Currently, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, which will go on sale in coming weeks on all four U.S. carriers, is generating the most buzz as a viable iPad challenger.