An Ottawa tech firm is about to take centre stage in the tablet computer war.

QNX builds the heart of the new RIM Playbook and RIM is hoping the new device will take them head-to-head with Apple's iPad.

QNX builds the software and graphics for casino slot machines, wired cars, energy systems, shopping systems and medical equipment.

Now, the company's technology powers the RIM Playbook, which is expected to be released within a few weeks.

The company is aggressively hiring staff after RIM spent $200 million to buy them less than a year ago.

"This company has the vibe of a start-up, it's exciting, and it's electric. Do we feel pressure on the Playbook? Yes. But we are excited to be part of RIM and be part of the success they have," said Derek Kuhn, who heads marketing for QNX.

RIM needs a homerun with the Playbook to get back some of its ‘cool factor.'

They hope this sleek, slick device, which can handle multi-tasking can deliver. It runs on Wi-Fi and in a new approach it can also be linked to a 3G Blackberry phone, handling data just like the phone. It also has a smaller seven-inch screen.

Engineering chief Sebastien Marineau-Mes has worked his way up the ranks at QNX. He says this leap into wireless tablets is the next step for a firm with 30 years of software know-how.

"Certainly, we feel some pressure. The stakes are very high with this device but it is exciting to be on this project to be competing with Apple. It is motivating," he said.

It's an amazing world inside cars these days as the vehicle is now linked to the web, loaded with entertainment media, sophisticated centre console control systems, links to cellphones and tablets, dashboard information that is constantly updated, and it all runs on QNX software.

Although there are now eight million cars with QNX software, Kuhn says: "A large number of customers are getting ready to launch features that we have in our demonstration cars in the future and I am talking about model years 2013,14, and 15."

The day CTV Ottawa was given exclusive access, a demo car from Audi was at QNX. It had a pop-up screen in the front and two more screens in the back seat. So, the feeling is that the company has evolved and the jump into the mobile space of tablet computing is just the next step.