RIM testing BlackBerry tablet, touchscreen phone

BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion Ltd. is testing a new BlackBerry smart phone and companion tablet, says a report from the Wall Street Journal.

According to the Journal’s unnamed sources, the new phone features a touch screen and a sliding keyboard. The phone will run the new BlackBerry operating system (BlackBerry 6), which has some iPhone-like qualities: users can use multi-touch gestures, such as swiping through screens and pinching-to-zoom, and there’s a “universal search bar” that will let users search through all of the phone’s data (as well as some online data). The phone will also have 4GB of internal storage and a 5-megapixel camera.

The tablet device is meant to act as a companion to the BlackBerry–it will be able to connect to cellular networks by tethering to a BlackBerry. According to “people familiar with RIM’s plans,” the tablet is in an early stage of development and could be available as soon as the end of 2010.

This is not the first we’ve heard of a BlackBerry tablet–in mid-May, Boy Genius Report brought some exclusive information about the rumored tablet device to the table. According to BGR, “multiple sources” confirmed that the tablet would be 8.9″ (diagonally), and that it would be “strictly a ‘companion’ device” (it will only be able to connect to the internet with a Bluetooth tether to your BlackBerry, or through Wi-Fi). BGR said the tablet was slated to arrive December 2010, but that RIM was looking to try to get it on the market sooner than that.

RIM is presumably working to get these new devices on the market as soon as possible, in order to compete with the ever-growing Apple and Android market shares.

To date, RIM has only one phone with a touchscreen–the BlackBerry Storm–and has built most of its reputation by making business-oriented phones. However, recently the iPhone has managed to snatch a fair number of business customersaccording to Ron Spears, CEO of AT&T’s Business Solutions unit, 4 out of 10 iPhone customers are enterprise users.

While RIM still has 38 percent of the North American smart phone market share, they’re down from 54 per cent a year ago. Meanwhile, Apple is up to 23 per cent from 18 per cent.

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