BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM) will unveil a 7-inch touch-screen tablet PC next week, joining the crowding field of competitors to Apple's popular iPad, The Wall Street Journal reports. The tentatively named BlackPad will reportedly run on a new operating system (developed by recent RIM acquisition QNX Software Systems), not BlackBerry 6, and have one or two cameras and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth networking. With Apple's iPhone eating into the BlackBerry's market share, could the BlackPad return the favor by toppling the iPad?

Watch your back, Apple: The BlackPad could be the right device, at the right time, to restore RIM's luster, says Kit Eaton at Fast Company. "The furore around the iPad has begun to dip," and, so far, the only other "big-name contender" for the iPad throne is Samsung's Galaxy Tab. Also, current RIM fans will be pleased they don't need a new wireless plan to go online — 3G service comes from tethering to a BlackBerry.
"Hot rumor: RIM's iPad challenger may surface next week"

Bring it on, RIM: Forcing users to connect this tablet to their BlackBerry smartphones to access cellular networks is a "curious direction," says John Brownlee in Cult of Mac. It's great for people already "drinking the BlackBerry Kool-Aid." But it "completely eliminates the BlackPad as an option" for everyone else. Overall, a tablet in an "an unproven size with an unproven operating system" sounds like a "risky investment," and one more sign that RIM's having trouble staying "competitive in a post-iPhone world."
"RIM to challenge iPad with BlackBerry tablet"

Everything depends on the new OS: RIM is trying to have the best of both worlds, combining the "corporate clout of BlackBerry with the form factor of the wildly popular iPad," says Chris Gaylord in The Christian Science Monitor. But it's RIM's "curious move" to run BlackPad on the new OS from QNX — not the newly minted, much-hyped BlackBerry 6 — that will determine if the iPad is in danger, or if we're nearing "the end of the BlackBerry era." 
"BlackPad: Half BlackBerry, half iPad"