RIM rumoured to be developing a tablet

MONTREAL — As consumers snap up Apple’s iPad and gravitate to PC tablets, BlackBerry maker Research In Motion may be working on its own version of the media entertainment device.

MONTREAL — As consumers snap up Apple’s iPad and gravitate to PC tablets, BlackBerry maker Research In Motion may be working on its own version of the media entertainment device.

RIM (TSX:RIM) has already said it’s working on new products, but co-CEO Jim Balsillie has only said “stayed tuned” without giving away any details.

The Wall St. Journal and some tech websites have reported that RIM is working on a tablet device that would accompany its BlackBerry.

IDC research analyst Kevin Restivo said smartphone makers are starting to get into the netbook and tablet markets.

“It is an industry-wide trend,” Restivo said Tuesday from Toronto.

Restivo noted that mobile phone player Nokia is expected to come out with a netbook, a computer designed for basic web surfing and email.

“It’s not surprising that we’re seeing reports of Research In Motion potentially getting into that game,” said Restivo, of IDC’s worldwide mobile phone tracker unit.

But PCMag analyst Sascha Segan said he doesn’t understand why RIM would make a tablet device that would have to be used with its BlackBerry.

“This tablet is such a confusing product that RIM would need to explain clearly why people want to buy it,” Segan said from New York.

Apple has been able to convince consumers why they should buy the iPad, he said, adding it’s a quick hit for accessing the Internet and applications when consumers don’t want to use an iPhone or other smartphone.

It’s also “Apple’s netbook play” and is a replacement for your second or third home computer, said Segan, managing editor for PCMag Mobile.

“Maybe RIM is toying with this idea, but I think the fact is that the only way you’re hearing about this is through sketchy, unnamed sources shows that they probably aren’t entirely committed to it,” Segan said.

There have also been reports the Waterloo, Ont.-based RIM is developing another touchscreen phone that also has a pullout keyboard.

Segan said that’s an obvious move for RIM and it’s new operating system has a number of touchscreen abilities.

“It was very clear there are going to be touchscreens on many next-generation BlackBerrys,” said Segan, who has seen a demonstration of the new BlackBerry operating system.

“However, RIM doesn’t want to give up its strength with keyboards.”

RIM has released the touchscreen BlackBerry Storm, which initially received mixed reviews.

BroadPoint AmTech analyst Mark McKechnie said there’s been more talk about RIM’s possible “slider” keyboard phone than its media tablet.

It could be an opportunity for RIM to go beyond being a smartphone maker, McKechnie said from San Francisco.

“The industry is moving that way. I think it makes a lot of sense for RIM to do something there,” he said.

“In a pessimistic way, you could look at it as something they need to do to survive, in a sense, to make sure they’re playing in as many of the screens as possible,” he said, referring to phones, computer and television which are all vying for consumers’ eyes and wallets.

RIM shares closed up $3.16 at $64.49 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.