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BlackBerry maker RIM is apparently taking a page from Palm’s book — one that the troubled RIM smartphone rival discarded. The company is developing a tablet that will serve as a BlackBerry companion device — not unlike Palm’s failed netbook-like Foleo — sources tell the Wall Street Journal.

The tablet is still early in development, but it’s definitely something that RIM wants to pair with its iconic BlackBerry smartphones. It won’t have 3G internet access of its own, for example, and will instead connect to a Blackberry device to access the Web. One assumes that the device would have Wi-Fi, at the very least, so that it can wirelessly connect to BlackBerrys, as well as be somewhat independent near Wi-Fi hotspots. It could also come out as early as the end of this year. A RIM spokesperson wouldn’t comment on the project to the WSJ.

The news is directly opposed to an analyst prediction from last month that said RIM was working on a consumer-friendly tablet for release in 2011. If the report is true, RIM’s upcoming tablet will be anything but consumer-friendly — it’s directly targeted to hardcore BlackBerry business users. Unlike the Foleo — which featured a stripped-down operating system, was set to retail for $499, and was useless without a Palm device — a RIM tablet could find success among the BlackBerry crowd.

If RIM manages to seamlessly integrate user workflow between the devices, keeps it well below the $499 price of the iPad, and ensures it has decent battery life to serve as a document reader when offline, the tablet could be something that keeps business users in the BlackBerry ecosystem.

The WSJ report also mentions that RIM is working on a new touchscreen smartphone with a slide-out hardware keyboard to compete with the iPhone — the BlackBerry Bold 9800. Gadget sites have been reporting on the device for some time, so its existence doesn’t come as much of a surprise.

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