RIM set to join the tablet fray this fall with “Blackpad”

Corroborating a rumor from The Wall Street Journal earlier this summer, a new Bloomberg report cited “two people familiar with the company’s plans” to build an iPad-like touchscreen device and release it this fall. Dubbed the “Blackpad,” the device will ostensibly run the as-yet-unreleased BlackBerry OS 6, and help RIM deflect further encroachment from Apple into its declining mobile market share.

Bloomberg’s sources note that the device will rely on BlackBerry’s usual enterprise e-mail advantage, but it will also include features that Apple’s iPad lacks. In particular, it will have both rear and front-facing cameras for video conferencing and image capture, as well as the ability to pair with a BlackBerry phone over Bluetooth to share its 3G connection.

But jumping into the current tablet market—already dominated by Apple’s iPad and with Windows 7 and Android-based products expected soon—might be easier said than done. “With the success of the iPad, RIM faces an uphill battle,” William Power, an analyst at Robert W Baird & Co, told Bloomberg. “RIM really has yet to demonstrate that it can roll out touchscreen technology to match the leaders in the space, most noticeably Apple.”

The Blackpad is expected to be launched in November, not long after RIM launches a long-rumored BlackBerry Bold 9800. That device will be a touchscreen-only device and the first to be offered with the more consumer-oriented BlackBerry OS 6.

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