BlackBerry PlayBook

The BlackBerry PlayBook isn’t selling very well. Today Research in Motion executives noted that the company shipped 200,000 BlackBerry tablets during the latest quarter. Add the 500,000 tablets that RIM shipped the quarter before that, and… well that’s about it. RIM has shipped 700,000 tablets. We don’t know how many people have actually bought them because shipments only tell you how many units were sent to stores, wireless carriers, or other distributors.

But RIM is hoping to turn things around by taking two steps:

  • Reducing the price.
  • Improving the software.

To make the price more attractive RIM plans to drop the cost of the 7 inch tablet, which currently retails for $499 and up (although you can often find one for much less). The company will also offer rebates for existing customers and incentives for business customers.

There’s no word on how deep the discounts will be, but RIM is trying to drum up new customers, not liquidate remaining inventory — so it doesn’t seem like the company will be following HP’s lead and selling its tablet below cost anytime soon.

RIM is also hoping that an upcoming software update will make the tablet more attractive. The next major update to the operating system will bring native email, calendar and contact apps as well as the ability to run Google Android applications. The company will also launch an online video store, with about 10,000 movies and TV programs available to rent or purchase.

It’s not clear that either of these moves alone would be enough to help build buzz for the PlayBook. But if the company cuts the price enough, makes the tablet feel a bit more feature-complete even if you don’t have a BlackBerry smartphone (by adding native email and calendar apps), and expands support for third party apps by opening the door to Android apps, the PlayBook could be a more attractive option.

On the hardware front, the BlackBerry PlayBook is already pretty impressive, with a 1 GHz TI OMAP 4430 dual core processor, a 7 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel capacitive touchscreen display, and a unique operating system which offers better support for true multitasking than most mobile operating systems (you can even play a video in the background while running other apps in the foreground). But up until now, there probably haven’t been a lot of reasons for customers to choose the PlayBook over an iPad or any number of Android tablets.

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9 replies on “BlackBerry PlayBook price cuts, software updates on the horizon”

  1. Has there been any tablets that came out at iPad pricing that have not dropped their price?  I don’t know much about marketing and pricing, but I’m surprised that companies think they can bring out a tablet at the same price level as the iPad and stay competitive.

    Regardless of the Apple “aura” can’t companies see that if there’s an established product out there it’s going to be hard to compete if your product is the same price and does not offer anything more?

    1. Actually, aside from the app market, some of them do offer more in terms of hardware and it may actually cost them more than Apple to make their products.

      Also remember many are focusing on telemarketing service providers as resellers, which often factors R&D costs into initial release price.  Possibly offering discounts with contracts.  While depreciating to more target pricing a few months later after R&D and advertisement costs are covered.

      While the slowing economy has made pricing more of a concern than it use to be, and many of these companies are just realizing the old rules no longer apply.

      1. I agree some may have more on terms of hardware, but the total package has been lacking. The app store is a huge factor. Didn’t the playbook ship without an email client? When going up against a product that has over 60% of the market you can’t bring incomplete products out at the same price thinking it will sell even if it did cost more to build. In any case they have all had to drop their price while the iPad continues to sell well at its original price.

        Tying tablets to cell providers is another thing I have a hard time understanding why companies think that’s a good idea. Why would someone buy into another 2 year contract when they probably already have a cell contract. I’m sure most people can see that the small discount the get on the device is actually put into the contract price. The consumer ends up paying the full price of the device and more. Plus they are stuck in a 2 year contract. It’s a bad deal all around in my opinion… unless they don’t have a cell plan already.

        I like the playbook. I like WebOS. I have an Android tablet and think it’s great. I don’t have an iPad and don’t like Apple, but I think other companies need to step it up if they want to chip away at Apple’s market. So far no one has been able to, but we have seen that when price goes down suddenly people will start looking at the alternatives.

        1. The thing with the e-mail client was that RIM basically gambled with the Playbook in that they originally wanted to cater it to existing Blackberry users, hoping to bolster the sales of both, but that didn’t work out as they had hoped and instead limited its appeal.  They are fixing that mistake but it’s still a question of whether it’s too little too late or not, but it’s still a top of the line tablet and of higher quality than many of the other tablets out there now.

          As for tying tablets to cell providers, remember much of the features requires Internet access.  So they had to make deals with cell providers for what networks they would have available for always connected functionality. 

          While it also made it easier on them for advertisement, as the carriers would often do that for them.  Along with coupling the reputation of the manufacturer with the cell providers for a larger potential customer base.

          The potential to quickly make back their R&D costs with the cell providers market model also are an incentive and why you usually don’t see the WiFi only models right away as they aren’t the priority in terms of profit potential for both the manufacturer and the cell provider.

  2. REally sad this isn’t turning out well for RIM. I personally love QNX.

    1. I think qnx is pretty good too. I think all the iOS competitors are better than iOS. I hope the playbook can sell better so there a playbook 2 someday. More competition is good.

      1. Hopefully the new $249 starting price should give it a good kick start.  Though many will wait to see how good the October update is for fixing the reported issues and many may also want to wait and see how other new tablets coming out around $250 (assuming the reported employee sale becomes the final public sale price), like the new Kindle Tablet, will compare…

  3. Just wondering what another journalist’s opinion is. Would you say that the competition for the Playbook right now is the Dell Streak 7 and the Acer Iconia Tab A100? Granted, the Playbook potentially offers some additional enterprise “perks”, and a solid argument can be made (not necessarily won) that QNX offers more power in some areas than Android 2.2 or 3.2. But does the BB Playbook need to get down to these prices ($250 for the Streak 7, $330 for the A100) to be competitive?

    1. It isn’t all that clear that any of those tablets are competitive. RIM is the only company of the bunch that’s revealed shipment numbers.

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