RIM Said to Plan Crusher Tank Technology for Tablet Computer
Research In Motion Ltd. is turning to technology used in BMW audio systems and the Army’s Crusher tank as it tries to distinguish its new tablet computer from Apple Inc.’s iPad, said three people familiar with the plans.
The yet-to-be-announced tablet will run on software developed by QNX Software Systems, which RIM bought from Harman International Industries Inc. for $200 million in April, said the people, who didn’t want to be identified because the plans haven’t been made public. QNX’s software is used in products from companies including Cisco Systems Inc., General Electric Co. and Caterpillar Inc.
RIM, based in Waterloo, Ontario, is racing to introduce its tablet as rivals debut similar devices that fill the gap between smartphones and laptops. By using QNX technology, RIM could take advantage of the independent software developers who create applications for QNX and build on the popularity of its BlackBerry smartphone with corporate customers.
“The iPad is very much a device for consuming,” said Alkesh Shah, an analyst at Evercore Partners Inc. in New York, who recommends buying the shares and doesn’t own any. “What’s not out there is a tablet for creating, for production.”
RIM plans to call the tablet BlackPad, one person familiar with the company’s plans said in July. RIM acquired the Internet rights to blackpad.com last month, according to the Whois database of domain names.
RIM fell 25 cents to $50.46 at 4 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The stock has declined 25 percent this year, compared with a 19 percent gain for Apple.
Marisa Conway, a spokeswoman for RIM, declined to comment.
QNX, with headquarters in Ottawa, has customers in the automotive, industrial, medical, and communications industries. Its software helps control the music, media and navigation systems in cars such as those from Bayerische Motoren Werke AG and Porsche SE, according to its website. The technology is also used in cardiac monitoring systems, nuclear power plants and weapons systems.
The Crusher is an unmanned, six-wheel vehicle developed by Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center for the U.S. Army in 2006. It navigates with the help of a computer that runs on QNX’s Neutrino software.
The BlackPad is designed to capitalize on RIM’s strength with corporate customers, particularly with e-mail service, one person said last month. The tablet will be closely integrated with the BlackBerry’s e-mail system and will have similar security for messaging, the person said.
The BlackPad will include Wi-Fi technology so it can connect to the Internet wherever the wireless technology is available, including a home or office. When not near such Wi-Fi “hotspots,” people could connect wirelessly to their mobile phone with Bluetooth technology and then to the Internet. The device will not be able to connect directly to the cellular network the way some iPads can, two people said last month.
RIM is opting to use the QNX operating system to run the BlackPad instead of the new BlackBerry 6 operating system, which is used in the company’s Torch smartphone. RIM called the introduction of the Torch and BlackBerry 6, which includes advanced touch-screen and Web browsing technology, “one of the most significant” in its history.
The three people familiar with RIM’s plans didn’t know the specific reasons for the decision, though one person said it may have been simpler and faster to use QNX because the BlackBerry 6 includes legacy software code from older BlackBerry phones.
Incorporating QNX software into its tablet computer may allow RIM to take advantage of the software’s broad use, said Ashok Kumar, an analyst with Rodman & Renshaw Inc.
“As long as it’s a good-enough product, they should have a fighting chance,” said Kumar.
RIM plans to introduce the tablet, which will be roughly the same dimensions as the iPad, in November, two people said last month. Hewlett-Packard Co., Samsung Electronics Co. and Motorola Inc. are also preparing tablets. Apple last month said it sold 3 million iPads in 80 days last quarter, eclipsing sales of its iPod music player.