Update: RIM says it’s not killing the PlayBook and that the company remains “committed to the tablet market.”
Research in Motion’s BlackBerry PlayBook is a nice looking little tablet with a 7 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel display and a speedy 1 GHz TI OMAP4 dual core processor. In fact, Amazon apparently liked the design enough that it contracted with Quanta, the Taiwanese manufacturer of the tablet to build the $200 Amazon Kindle Fire. The two tablets look almost identical.
But there are a few key differences. The Kindle Fire is an inexpensive device that’s bundled with Amazon’s digital media stores as way to give users an excuse to buy music, movies, apps, and eBooks from Amazon, while the BlackBerry PlayBook is a $500 general purpose tablet that’s gained little traction in the market.
Amazon expects to sell hundreds of millions of Kindle Fire units. RIM has likely only shipped around 700,000 so far — and now there’s a rumor going around that the company may be pulling the plug on the tablet altogether.
We should probably take the news with a grain of salt, since it’s coming from an industry analyst and not from RIM executives. But apparently he did a little digging and found that Quanta simply isn’t making any more PlayBook tablets.
It’s possible that this just means RIM has an overabundance of tablets at the moment and needs to sell through them before placing orders for any new units. But with Quanta already reportedly laying offer workers, the future for this 7 inch tablet doesn’t look all that bright.
RIM officials launched a two-pronged approach to drum up BlackBerry PlayBook sales recently. First, there are promotions underway that let you pick up the tablet for as little as $300 from several retailers in the US and Canada. The company is also expected to roll out a software update in the coming weeks which will add support for native email, calendar and contact apps as well as some Google Android applications.
Even if the PlayBook is effectively dead, RIM could still launch another tablet in the future, or take another approach to try to gain ground in the tablet space, but the Barron’s report says future tablet plans may also be cancelled.
Honestly, maybe it’s time to call it quits. At this point few companies that aren’t called Apple are thriving in the tablet space.
Last year, after Apple’s iPad started selling like hotcakes, it made sense for every consumer electronics company on the planet to develop a tablet to try to get in on the fun. But at this point it’s not clear whether there’s a massive demand for tablets… or just for iPads.
Some niche devices, such as the Barnes & Noble NOOK Color seem to be selling well, and I suspect the Amazon Kindle Fire may do well for the same reasons — neither device is trying to beat the iPad at its own game. And overall Android tablet market share may continue to grow slowly as Google and its hardware partners refine their designs. But I’d be surprised if there’s a single non-Apple device maker that will make a huge splash in the general-purpose tablet space in the next 12 months — especially by going it alone and using an operating system developed in-house.
HP clearly decided that it couldn’t pull off that trick, and canceled the HP TouchPad tablet after just 45 days on the market. RIM’s PlayBook has been around a little longer than that, but sales have been similarly sluggish.
Update: Although RIM says it’s not pulling out of the tablet space, the company still has a tough road ahead of it and the recent price cuts may just be the first step in either turning things around… or signalling the beginning of the end.
via Business Insider