RIM Blackberry Tablet: More than Mere Rumor?

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Rumors that RIM is readying a 7-inch tablet outfitted with Adobe Flash are still unconfirmed, yet these reports seem to make sense in light of evidence ranging from a published photo of a tablet prototype to RIM’s recent work with the Adobe-led Open Screen Project.

Beyond Flash, other specs for RIM’s purported table include a 1 GHz Marvell processor, front and rear facing cameras, 1080p HDTV video playback, and 3D graphics. The Flash support is rumored to include a hardware accelerator for Flash.

If tales of the RIM tablet are true, RIM would be to some extent following in the footsteps of LG, a smartphone maker that went public just this week with plans for an Android-enabled tablet PC.

In addition, the RIM tablet’s reported 1080p video and Flash support would give it a couple of big competitive advantages over Apple’s industry-dominating iPad, which lacks both these features.

More Flash

On the Flash side, at least, RIM also looks likely pull up to par with devices based on the Android OS, which are slated to gain the enhancements in Adobe Flash 10.1 as the Android 2.2 roll outs continue.

This week’s rumors all got started when Ashok Kumar, an analyst and managing director at Rodman & Renshaw, said in a research note last Friday that he has seen the RIM tablet. Kumar also outlined specs for the gadget and provided a target release date.

“Research in Motion is trying to pull forward the launch of the 7-inch touchscreen tablet from early next year to year end…with a marginal point of differentiation being the front- and back-facing cameras for videoconferencing,” Kumar wrote.

Then, in an article in this week, Betanews quoted a “source close to RIM” as substantiating Kumar’s report, while adding that the tablet will support Flash.

No Comment

“It is RIM’s policy not to comment on rumor and speculation,” said a RIM spokesperson, in an e-mail this week to TabletPCReview.com. Yet there’s been other evidence over the past few months that also appears to back the reports.

Up until less than a year ago, Adobe officials tended to dismiss the possibility that Flash could run on RIM devices in that converting Flash first to Java, and then to BlackBerry device code, would inflict too much of a performance burden.

In October of 2009, though, RIM joined the Open Screen Project with the stated intentions of working with Adobe to bring the Flash Player browser runtime to BlackBerry smartphones, while also adapting Air and other Adobe components.

By the way, Google, the original force behind Android, is also a member of the Open Screen Project, and so is Marvell. For its part, Apple is not.

Jumping forward about six months, PC Magazine quoted RIM officials in April as telling financial analysts during a conference call that BlackBerry phones would be gaining future support for Flash.

Then, in May, Boy Genius Report said RIM was experimenting with an 8.9-inch companion tablet to Blackberry phones that would lack direct connectivity to cellular networks, hooking up instead through its Wi-Fi radio or a Bluetooth connection to the phone. The story included a photo of rough tablet prototype.

However, there doesn’t seem to have been much if any speculation yet as to whether the smaller, 7-inch tablet described by Kumar will be equipped with direct cellular connectivity if it does, in fact, hit the market this year.

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