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Citing internal sources at RIM, the Wall Street Journal  reported Tuesday that RIM plans to unveil its new tablet computer next week at the upcoming RIM developers conference in San Francisco. In a surprising twist, the tablet, code-named “BlackPad,” will run the new QNX Software OS instead of the BlackBerry OS.  

RIM purchased QNX Software earlier this year in what market watchers say was an attempt to combat lackluster BlackBerry OS performance and developer complaints of bugs and a lack of intuitive tools. The QNX operating system is used in a variety of machines and devices, including cars, nuclear reactors and other embedded/machine-to-machine devices.

Insiders say RIM plans to replace its BlackBerry OS entirely with the QNX operating system eventually, and the new BlackPad is just the first in line.

According to the Journal, the new tablet will feature a seven-inch touch screen, and have a built-in camera, or, possibly, two. The tablet will support Bluetooth and WiFi, but will not include embedded WAN access. Instead, users wanting to connect to the Internet using a carrier will have to use a tethered BlackBerry smartphone.

The new tablet comes on the heels of recent forecasts that predict RIM will lose large amounts of market share over the next few years. The company, formerly the darling of the mobile enterprise, has steadily been losing share as it competes with Apple’s iPhone and the several Android smartphones making their way into RIM’s enterprise sweet spot. The so-called “BlackPad” will compete directly with the iPad and a slew of other tablets appearing on the scene from Dell, Cisco, HP, Acer and others many of which are running Android.

RIM’s struggle is due not only to the adoption and availability of what some perceive as sleeker and cooler devices, but also the objections of developers to the tools and limitations of the current OS. Google has done a stellar job of winning over the developer community with its evangelism, support and free open-source tool kits.

According to the WSJ, RIM will showcase the revamped functionality for developers at next week’s conference. No doubt, RIM hopes developers will be spurred into action by what they see.

The Wall Street Journal article quotes Alec Saunders, CEO of Iotum Corp. as someone familiar with the QNX operation system, and indicates that the OS has a good shot of competing will against Apple and Google platforms.

"It was architected from the ground up never to go down," Saunders told the WSJ.

According to the WSJ sources, the BlackPad will be manufactured by Taiwanese manufacturer Quanta Computer, and will run on chips from Marvell Technology Group.