Research In Motion is known for basically one thing: making reliable smartphones that brought e-mailing from a phone to the mainstream. But it might be branching out very soon.
The Canadian company is the largest smartphone purveyor in the U.S., and despite the surging sales of Apple iPhones and Google Android-powered devices, RIM has held its ground--for now. Its BlackBerry accounts for 41 percent of smartphones in the U.S., and is second overall worldwide after Nokia.
But even though RIM has been able to hold on to its lead in smartphones, Apple's iOS software and Android are not staying put there. Both are moving on to bigger, more powerful mobile devices: touch-screen tablets. The iPad's runaway success has created a new device category for consumers who want to buy something that's lighter than a laptop and easier to type and browse on than a smartphone. And almost everyone is jumping in: Dell, HP, and Samsung are looking to get a piece of this market early on, too, which analysts expect to hit 15 million units this year, and more than 20 million next year.
RIM, somewhat surprisingly, is one of those with its eye on this market. Since the spring, reports have leaked out that the company was testing a tablet to work in conjunction with its smartphone. RIM was found to have bought the domain name "Blackpad.com," which has led some to nickname the yet-to-be confirmed device "BlackPad."
Word came last week that the company might even introduce the device today, when President and Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis and other execs take the stage at the annual developer gathering, RIM DevCon, in San Francisco. The device is not expected, however, to ship until closer to the end of the year.
If it does offer a sneak peek, it's a bold move to do it in the same venue Apple uses to announce its new iPhone every year (San Francisco's Moscone Center), but not more so than RIM actually making a tablet in the first place.
If RIM trots out a sister device to the BlackBerry, like a touch-screen tablet, it's a sign that the company isn't resigned to letting Apple and Android steal its market share without a good fight.… Read more