The BlackBerry PlayBook hasn't sold as well as RIM may have initially hoped, but its maker isn't giving up hope yet. Amid rumours that support for the device is coming to an end, RIM has stepped forward to reaffirm its dedication to the tablet.
Earlier this week, slashed prices of the BlackBerry PlayBook in the US led analysts to conclude that RIM was about to can the 7in tablet, but RIM's Marisa Conway rejected these claims as speculation, "Rumours suggesting that the BlackBerry PlayBook is being discontinued are pure fiction. RIM remains highly committed to the tablet market and the future of QNX in its platform."
However, the recent $200 price cut of the PlayBook tablet at key US retailer Best Buy was ominously reminiscent of the severe price-slashing that gave the HP Touchpad its last sales gasp. RIM hasn't released full sales figures for its first tablet, but dropping shipments suggest that the figures to date haven't been too hot. During its first quarter, 500,000 PlayBooks made their way to retailers, a figure that dropped to just 200,000 in its second - and of these 700,000 units, we don't know how many have actually been bought.
Aside from the difficulties inherent in being the first device to use the new QNX platform, the BlackBerry PlayBook launch was hurt by the device's lack of apps. It didn't even have its own proper email app. Perhaps someone in the BlackBerry labs just…. forgot. This app issue, along with a relatively high price and lack of a real killer USP ensured it struggled to make even a small dent in iPad sales. Oh, and we only gave it 6/10 - that can't have helped either.
Even if RIM's affirmation of support is just a way to stop sales dipping even further, the tablet market is not moving in its favour. Budget tablets like the Amazon Kindle Fire and Samsung Galaxy 7.0 Pro offer cheaper, more feature-rich alternatives at a lower price, and without compromising on specs either. As the first waves of tablets are replaced by leaner, meaner successors, we have to wonder whether RIM will have the stamina to hold it out in the tablet market. It's not a cheap game to take part in.