With the launch of its new BlackBerry 6 operating system due soon, and the unveil of its top-end BlackBerry 9800 slider smartphone primed for Tuesday, it seems that RIM is finally preparing to take on Apple in a serious manner.

Despite being the biggest smartphone manufacturer in North America - indeed BlackBerries outsold iPhones 11.2 million to 8.4 million globally last quarter - RIM is seeing its marketshare squeezed by Apple and Android.

On one level then the BlackBerry 9800, which will combine a touchscreen with a full BlackBerry keyboard, will enable the company to stabilise its performance against the iPhone 4s and Droids, even if not out-performing them.

What's more significant though are the leaks concerning its Blackpad.

One-uppadship

Said to be due for release in November, Blackpad is rumoured to be iPad size, with a 9.7-inch touchscreen, but better connectivity having wi-fi and Bluetooth options, with the latter being used for tethering with your BlackBerry phone to provide access to 3G networks.

Of course, with its own cellular network for data and email - something RIM charges users for access to on top of their operator contract - it makes sense for RIM to ensure its tablet outdoes iPad in such areas. Also expect it to ship with a solid suite of enterprise and productivity utilities, plus the usual BlackBerry secure email and messaging systems, to encourage the suits to buy it.

And even more interesting are the suggestions the Blackpad will have front and back-facing cameras for video conferencing: something else that would distinguish it as being more functional than iPad.

Of course, with such extras don't expect the Blackpad to come cheap. Pricing is said to start at $499.

[source: Bloomberg]