BlackPad Bunkum

There’s been a lot of blather of late among bloggers who claim that Research In Motion is working on a tablet to compete with the iPad. The source is said to be an insider; the code name for the device is Cobalt.

I think this is all just so much bunkum. But first, two caveats. One, I haven’t interviewed anyone at RIM for six months since my book was finalized. Two, they never revealed anything to me about any new device until the official release. Still, I have a sense of the place in general and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis in particular. Here are my thoughts, buttressed with some quotes from Mike that he gave to me during my four years of research.

First, an inside source blabbing about a product a year away from launch seems unlikely. Development teams at RIM are small and sworn to secrecy.

Moreover, Mike likes the BlackBerry and believes it offers plenty of scope. “Just like the big computer mainframe gave way to the mini, and the mini gave way to the micro, and the micro fought it out with the laptop, there is a chance that BlackBerry may become sophisticated enough within the next few years that you’ll never go back to your laptop,” he told me.

“There is a chance that these handheld, wirelessly connected, highly efficient devices that are always on, always collecting data, always interacting with the entire information pool through the Internet, will replace your laptop. PCs will become media systems, which will be part of your big screen, but BlackBerry will be the core of everything, the central nervous system of what’s going on. It will be managing everything from your handheld device, because that’s where your customization is. The bulk of the media is either in a central store somewhere or at your cable or satellite provider,” said Lazaridis.

Finally, although RIM does have a touchscreen product in Storm, Mike’s preference has always been for a keyboard ever since he saw the prototype of the Palm Pilot eons ago. “For me, it was all about keyboards at the time because I could type very fast, very accurately, without ever looking at the keyboard. With a tactile system that’s properly designed, within days your body memorizes where all the keys are without you having to look at them. So [Palm founder] Jeff [Hawkins] went off and did touch screens. I went off and tried to develop something with a keyboard.”

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