RIM to challenge Apple with new tablet?

Rumors are that the BlackBerry maker will launch an iPad competitor in November.

By InvestorPlace Aug 3, 2010 9:04AM

By Anthony Agnello, InvestorPlace.com

While the BlackBerry might be losing ground to the Apple (AAPL) iPhone with each passing day, that doesn't mean Research In Motion (RIMM) is down for the count. In fact, according to a report from Bloomberg filed last Friday, RIMM is set to mount a major counteroffensive against Apple -- and it's much more than the new BlackBerry phone announced today.

Research In Motion is about to get into the tablet computer game with their new iPad competitor, the Blackpad, set to hit stores this fall.


Bloomberg's Hugo Miller, citing "two people familiar with the company's plans," reported that RIM is looking at a November launch for its BlackPad tablet computer. The BlackPad will sport similar form and functionality to AAPL's device, with a 9.7-inch touch screen as well as both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless communication technology.

Significantly different from Apple's line of mobile products however, will be how Research in Motion's devices will synch up. The BlackPad will allegedly be able to connect to the Internet by linking up with a user's BlackBerry phone. Apple doesn't allow iPad users to take advantage of an iPhone's internet connection. The Blackpad will be priced in line with Apple's device as well, with a rumored retail close to $499.

Evidence seems to authenticate Miller's report. RIM acquired the blackpad.com domain in June. Post continues after video:

RIM isn't planning on stopping there either. Just today the company unveiled its first touch-screen device with a slide-out keyboard, dubbed the BlackBerry Torch 9800.

The Torch will launch as an exclusive through carrier partner AT&T Inc. (T) and will be available in stores Aug. 12 and retail for $199.99 with a two-year service agreement.

Popular opinion on Wall Street is that Research In Motion has seen better days. Its line of BlackBerry smart phones -- tech that was considered the very cream of the cell phone, PDA and handheld Web device that cropped up just a few short years ago -- has been losing ground in the public consciousness since 2007. The BlackBerry is a failing concern in the face of stiff competition from Google (GOOG) and its Android-powered phones and, most significantly, Apple's juggernaut iPhone.

In April, RIM shareholders grimaced as shares fell by as much as 7.4%. This came after the February reporting period, when revenue came in at $4.08 billion, far below the projected $4.31 at the time. And despite the market clawing back into the black with yesterday’s gains, year-to-date RIM stock is down 15% so far in 2010.

The Ontario tech company isn't as bad off as it seems, though. While the BlackBerry's overall share of the smart-phone market has tapered off to just 19%, sales continue to be relatively strong. RIM shipped 11.2 million BlackBerrys during the first quarter of 2010, and revenue has climbed to $4.24 billion since April, an increase of 24% over 2009. The new BlackBerry 9800 should also benefit from the recent negative press surrounding Apple's iPhone 4. Early buzz surrounding the Blackpad is also good for the company. RIM shares rose +3.3% on Friday and are up about +1.5% in trading mid-day after a brief slide Monday.


Whether the BlackPad comes to market in November, despite this positive press, remains to be seen. Other contenders for the tablet computer throne have announced products and then quietly withdrawn. Hewlett-Packard was known to be developing a tablet computer powered by Google's Android operating system, and it was said to be positioning the device for a Holiday 2010 launch. Word came out on July 15 that HP had scrapped those plans entirely, though no one knows for sure why. The Google-powered tablet joins HP's planned HP Hurricane, a webOS tablet, on the company's slate of would-be iPad-killers that never were.


Will the BlackPad suffer the same fate? We'll find out soon.

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