BlackPad or SurfBook? Will a Consumer-Oriented Tablet Help RIM?

by Jeff Wiener on September 23, 2010

Since the writers here at theTelecomblog started reporting about the rumoured development and impending release of Research in Motion’s much anticipated tablet offering, I’ve had two burning questions on my mind: First, will RIM’s tablet, rumoured to be named the BlackPad, reverse the companies slumping North American sales? Second, what’s up with the name BlackPad?

The rumours around the possible name for RIM’s new tablet device started swirling months ago when it applied for a trademark for the name BlackPad, but yesterday it was revealed that RIM has also applied for another trademark, this one for the name ‘Surfbook’. But with the former attempting to capitalize on the iPad craze (with a little 70’s era blaxploitation film title thrown in for good measure) and the latter an obvious attempt at capitalizing on Facebook’s popularity and with RIM clearly throwing many of its eggs into this one basket, will either name be enough to save the company?

The reality of the situation is simple; RIM needs to produce a device that appeals to business users plain and simple. But with Cisco and Avaya producing tablets of their own and both looking to beat RIM to the punch, will there be any market share left for RIM? I hope so, but even if there is, is the business market still something RIM is interested in?

Despite what I’ve written regarding RIM over the past months, I have always been a fan of the Ontario-based smartphone developer…although not fan enough to actually get one of their devices. What I mean is, simply put, that I take no pleasure in witnessing RIM’s continued struggles and I hope the company is able to reverse its fortunes.

The problem is, based on the names like BlackPad and Surfbook that we’re hearing from sources close to the project; it seems that RIM is taking its tablet in a different direction. Think for a moment what comes to mind when you hear the name Surfbook; a handheld device that easily allows you to surf the Web, check your emails, and update your status (perhaps much like Facebook currently allows you to do).

The name BlackPad, awkward connotations aside, tends to bring to mind something a little more serious but with the inevitable comparisons to Apple’s iPad. But does either of the names communicate a sturdy, reliable, and productive business communications machine? Not really, which means that if RIM is not planning on utilizing its current customer base of business users, it will have to work twice as hard to attract customers to its tablet device.

My fear is this, by choosing names like Surbook or BlackPad RIM seems to be ignoring the business-oriented marketing model that has given it all the success it currently enjoys. So what do Blackberry users expect from a RIM device? How about a  business oriented mobile smartphone that simplifies their lives, allows them to be more productive, and helps them make more money. Alienate those people with a flashy, poorly-named consumer tablet device, and you’re sure to fail… and I would wager that RIM will not be able to handle another flop.

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