There’s a mixed bag of news for SMBs this week, the principal item -- if in fact it’s true -- is that BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM) may be getting ready to launch the unconfirmed BlackPad. Meanwhile, Google has given Gmail contacts a bit of a makeover.

‘PADtastic’ Rumours of BlackPad

If you’re one of those that had been following the development and launch of iPad and is now looking for more tablet stimulation, then you might keep an eye out for what is being reported as the  launch of RIM’s answer to iPad -- BlackPad.

There is nothing definite about this, and RIM has avoided making any statements about the numerous reports that have been circulating about the release -- or even existence -- of BlackPad.

That said something is definitely happening. The rumours run as follows (although no one seems to know where they originated): Research in Motion (news, site) has appointed Taiwanese notebook maker Quanta Computer to make the new BlackPad, which is to be released in November for the Christmas rush and will retail at US $499.

It will support Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and 3G through connection to a Blackberry smartphone. Other rumours suggest that it may be released with the Android OS as it may not have its own operating system ready in time.

If you dig hard enough you could probably find a whole lot more unverified rumours about this. However, it does really look at this stage that something is happening and that it will happen before Christmas.

Just FYI in this respect, Apple has reportedly sold 3 million iPads since the April launch. Also not to forget that there are also reports of new tablets coming from HP and Dell. Watch this space.

Search Engine Advertising for SMBs

A new partnership between American Express OPEN and Clickable (news, site) aims to put search advertising within the reach of SMBs with the creation of a new search engine manager built on the Clickable Platform.

The idea behind the new product is that companies that are shying away from search engine marketing because of perceived costs will be able to deploy SearchManager cheaply from which they will be able to create a multiple search engine advertising campaigns from a single dashboard.

SearchManger gives companies cross-engine visibility with a summary of campaigns using a straightforward dashboard with key metrics as well as analysis of results and advice on potential improvements.

Available for small businesses at the moment, it also comes in a self-managed Pro edition for companies that are already pursuing their own search engine campaigns, but who are looking for a single location to carry out all their activities.

SearchManager Pro costs about US$ 49 per month for SMBs with an ad spend of less than US $1,000 per month, while those spending more than that pay 5% of monthly spend.

Gmail Gets Contacts Facelift

You may recall that a few months ago Hotmail was given a makeover in an attempt to revive its flagging fortunes. Now it’s Gmail's turn, which probably doesn’t need a lot of help, but is getting a new contacts interface nevertheless.

gmail_contacts page.jpg

Gmail's new contacts page
 

Announced on the Gmail blog this week, the new interface includes new keyboard features, new sorting features as well as better labels as well as easier access to your Gmail contact list.

While there are quite a number of new features some are worth a mention here. Overall, the contacts works more like the rest of Gmail including:

  • Keyboard shortcuts, including one to full contact list
  • Sort by name
  • Customizable labels for phone numbers and other fields
  • ‘Undo’ functions
  • Structured name fields
  • Bigger and more prominent notes field.

For Google Apps users the changes are not obvious yet, the blog says. It says that they are concentrating on making domain specific features work well in the new interface and intend to make it available to apps users in the near future. If you want more go to the Gmail blog.

M Files Extends Reach with Partner Program

In the document management space for SMBs, Motive Systems, which produces the easy-to-use and economical M-Files (news, site), has just announced that it has launched a comprehensive channel program aimed at value-added resellers (VARs) and managed service providers (MSPs) that focus on business solutions for SMBs.

The program enables channel partners to effectively market and service M-Files in conjunction with a reseller's existing product portfolio, as a complementary offering to existing software and hardware solutions.

M-Files integrates easily with the major ERP, CRM, accounting software, as well as virtually any database. The program has already been piloted in the US and Canada for the past few months.

The M-Files Partner Program consists of a Starter Kit that includes licenses for resale, demo versions, training, and marketing and support assistance, such as access to a partner portal from which sales tools, images and other collateral can be downloaded.