Add Research In Motion to the list of tech shops rethinking its tablet strategy.
The BlackBerry maker had hoped to offer a Google Android-powered tablet later this year, but has now backed off the plan, says Rodman Renshaw analyst Ashok Kumar, who has been monitoring the supplier and manufacturing partners.
The so-called BlackPad RIM tablet is being pushed out to early next year, he says.
The move marks the third time in two weeks that a would-be tablet maker has shelved product preparations aimed at challenging the Apple iPad. Last week, Hewlett-Packard pulled the plug on its Slate tablet and Microsoft reportedly withdrew plans for the Courier device. Both tablets had been due to arrive this year, dealing Microsoft a major setback in its flailing mobile effort.
"Everyone is taking a second look at that product road map," says Kumar, referring to tablets. "It has to compare favourably to the iPad."
RIM is expected to be designing its tablet for the consumer market -- not specifically to its core business users. As it stands now, says Kumar, RIM has enlisted Quanta, Taiwan's huge contract manufacturer, to build the device. And instead of using Google's Android software, RIM has decided to go with its own BlackBerry operating system, presumably the one featured at the company's developers' conference last week.
The "BlackPad" is also slated to use Marvell's Armada processor, a significant supplier choice that once again has Intel sitting outside the tablet market.
The Apple iPad has struck a chord with gadget fans who have now scooped up more than one million iPads in the first month of sales. The initial enthusiasm for the device challenges assumptions about whether people would buy an in-between mobile device.
The iPad sets an emerging industry standard of sorts in areas like long battery life, a range of prices from $500 to $830 and a diminutive operating system geared toward media consumption and not computing.
Would-be rivals need to stack up favourably with those features or find an edge that would help set the device apart from the iPad. RIM's decision to go with its own operating system suggests that it will tap some of its e-mail-specialist strength in the upcoming tablet wars.
Similarly, Hewlett-Packard's second-guessing on tablets, in the wake of its deal for Palm, signals a possible shift from the bulky Microsoft Windows 7 operating system toward the Palm WebOS mobile software.
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