RIM lining up Blackpad URL for tablet release

Speculation is rife that smartphone maker Research in Motion (RIM) plans to launch a tablet device to rival Apple's iPad.

Rumours began after the BlackBerry maker acquired the Internet domain www.blackpad.com on 8 July from an undisclosed owner. The registration is due to expire on 8 September 2011.

There's no sign so far of a site at the address.

The domain had been registered since 2002, but no product bearing the name has so far been released.

According to a report on financial website Bloomberg, no evidence has yet been uncovered of RIM applying for a trademark with the US Patents and Trademarks Office.

Rumours have circulated for some time about a planned tablet from RIM - though reports centred abround a larger, touchscreen device designed to be tied to existing BlackBerry handsets for mobile internet access. 'BlackPad' has been one of the names bandied about.

The domain registration could simply be a pre-emptive move to prevent the site falling into the hands of cybersquatters - but it may point to concrete development plans.

There's been no official word from RIM about a potential tablet release, but the company has called a press conference on 3 August at which it is expected to launch the BlackBerry 9800 Slider, the company's first smartphone to feature a touchscreen and slide-out keyboard - and the first to feature its new BlackBerry 6 OS.

Further details of RIM's tablet plans may emerge at the meeting.