RIM Said to Plan Tablet for November to Take on Apple's IPad

Research In Motion Ltd., maker of the BlackBerry smartphone, plans to introduce a tablet computer in November to compete with Apple Inc.’s iPad, according to two people familiar with the company’s plans.

The device will have roughly the same dimensions as the iPad, which has a 9.7-inch diagonal screen, said the two people who wouldn’t be identified because the plans haven’t been made public. The device will include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless technology that will allow people to connect to the Internet through their BlackBerry smartphones, the two people said.

RIM is racing to come out with a product to rival the iPad in the fast-growing market for devices that bridge the gap between smartphones and notebook computers. Apple, based in Cupertino, California, last month said it sold 3 million iPad tablet computers in 80 days after they debuted in the U.S.

“They can’t wait for a second generation of devices from Apple or they’ll fall too far behind,” said Ashok Kumar, an analyst with Rodman & Renshaw Inc. in New York.

RIM rose $1.83, or 3.3 percent, to $57.53 at 4 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading, reversing an earlier decline of as much as 2.5 percent. The stock has dropped 15 percent this year, as Apple has climbed 22 percent.

Marisa Conway, a spokeswoman for RIM, declined to comment, citing company policy not to comment on rumor or speculation.

Blackpad Pricing

RIM plans to call the tablet Blackpad, according to one of the people familiar with the company’s plans. RIM, based in Waterloo, Ontario, acquired the Internet rights to blackpad.com this month, according to the Whois database of domain names.

Pricing for the device will be in line with the iPad, which starts at $499, the person said. RIM is focused on reaping additional profits from the tablet effort, rather than competing on price to sell a large number of devices, the person said.

RIM is stepping up its competition with Apple on multiple fronts. The company is hosting an event in New York Aug. 3 at which it will debut its BlackBerry 9800 slider phone, according to one person familiar with its plans. The device will feature a full touchscreen like Apple’s iPhone and a slideout Qwerty keyboard to allow for easy e-mail typing, the person said.

RIM plans to use the phone to regain the market share it has lost recently to its U.S. rival. RIM’s share of the smartphone market fell to 19.4 percent of global shipments in the first quarter from 20.9 percent a year earlier, according to researcher IDC, based in Framingham, Massachusetts. Apple claimed 16.1 percent of the smartphone market, up from 10.9 percent a year earlier.

Uphill Battle?

In the tablet market, RIM will have to demonstrate how its device can stand out against products including the iPad, which has attracted buyers because of its integration with Apple’s iTunes service and many software applications, or apps. More than 225,000 apps are available for Apple devices, the company said in June. RIM said in April it had more than 6,000 apps.

“With the success of the iPad, RIM faces an uphill battle,” said William Power, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co., who has a “neutral” rating on the stock. “RIM really has yet to demonstrate that it can roll out touchscreen technology to match the leaders in the space, most noticeably Apple.”

RIM’s tablet will capitalize on the BlackBerry’s e-mail capabilities and the phone’s popularity with corporate users, one person said. The tablet will be closely integrated with the smartphone’s e-mail system and will have similar security for messaging, the person said.

Cameras for Video

Wi-Fi would allow the device to connect to the Internet anywhere the wireless technology is available, including a home, office or coffee shop. When not near such Wi-Fi “hotspots,” people could connect wirelessly to their mobile phone with Bluetooth and then to the Internet. The device will not be able to connect directly to the cellular network the way some iPads can, the two people said.

The RIM tablet will also have front- and back-facing cameras for videoconferencing, Rodman & Renshaw’s Kumar said, citing sources at suppliers in Asia.

“I don’t think it’s a zero-sum game,” he said, saying that innovation by Apple, RIM and other competitors will increase the size of the tablet market.

Hewlett-Packard Co., which bought smartphone maker Palm Inc. this month, said it plans to produce a tablet device that runs on Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating system. Korea’s LG Electronics Inc. said this month it plans to introduce a tablet computer in the fourth quarter that runs on Google Inc.’s Android software. Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer said yesterday the software company plans to increase its focus on tablets.

-- Editors: Peter Elstrom, Ville Heiskanen

To contact the reporter on this story: Hugo Miller in Toronto at hugomiller@bloomberg.net

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