The technology gossip columns have spent the past few days digesting rumors about an upcoming BlackBerry tablet. Some of the details first came out in a Wall Street Journal article last month.

RIM is also experimenting with a tablet device to serve as a larger-screen companion to its BlackBerry phone, say people familiar with RIM's plans. That device, which is in an early stage of development, will connect to cellular networks via a BlackBerry phone, these people say. It could come out as soon as the end of the year, these people say."

Now we know more. It will be 8.9 inches in size and come only with Bluetooth or WiFi. That means it will likely work in concert with another BlackBerry device that the user already owns. It will have a slide out keyboard and run the upcoming BlackBerry OS 6, the most interesting features of which you can see in this video.

This news sets up a fascinating duel with Apple. Despite the success of the iPhone, RIM still holds a solid lead in the smartphone market thanks to its ubiquity in corporate environments. On the other hand, no one can compete with Apple's iPad yet. Will a BlackBerry tablet prevent BlackBerry users from buying into the iPad hype? Time will tell.

-- Don Willmott