Research in Motion (RIM), which makes BlackBerry smartphones, is thought to be trialling a portable device to compete with Apple's iPad, possibly one of a series of tablet computers coming to market this year.
Talk has emerged in the US that the Canadian company is in the early stages of developing a tablet-style device that would use its BlackBerry smartphones to connect to the internet.
RIM did not return calls yesterday, but it has previously announced plans for a device with an overhauled operating system and web browser that is expected this year.
Some analysts said a tablet would mark a reversal of RIM's strategy because the head of the company, Mike Lazaridis, was previously dismissive of the new devices but revealed that Apple would face considerable competition by the end of this year.
Ben Wood, an analyst at CCS Insight, said: "We will see a torrent of tablets in the second half of this year following the success of the iPad."
Apple's chief executive, Steve Jobs, launched the iPad in January, calling it "magical and revolutionary". The iPad has divided opinion but sales were so strong in the US that the company had to delay its international launch, citing "runaway demand". At the end of May, Apple revealed that it had sold two million iPads in less than two months since it went on sale.
"Apple has done such a good job, we estimate it will secure 80 per cent of the tablet market," Mr Wood said. "Yet by the fourth quarter we expect devices from all sorts of other companies."
Dell has developed the Streak tablet, LG is working on the UX10 and Samsung has the Galaxy Tape in the works.
Mr Wood added: "Once again Apple has been a game-changer and everyone else is running to jump on to the bandwagon."
Those running on Google's Android operating software would provide the most competition to Apple, he added.Reuse content