Barely three months after the launch of its BlackBerry PlayBook, RIM is rumored to be about to discontinue the currently available WiFi-only models, possibly due to lower than expected sales. While the tablet fared better than other devices such as the Motorola Xoom, with at least half a million devices shipped thus far, the PlayBook sales figures are still dwarfed by the iPad’s.
As a result, RIM is allegedly focusing on upcoming – and potentially more popular – 3G-enabled models.
In a note to investors Monday afternoon, RBC Capital Markets Managing Director Mike Abramsky reiterated an OTR Global report that Research In Motion is possibly planning to stop production of the BlackBerry PlayBook’s Wi-Fi model. The Wi-Fi version of RIM’s tablet is the only version Research In Motion currently manufacturers. The reasons for the discontinuation of the Wi-Fi edition, Abramsky states, could be related to a pullback in production, a move that would align channel inventory with slower than expected sell-through, in addition to RIM focusing on upcoming cellularly-connected PlayBook versions.
In a competitive tablet market, RIM has a serious disadvantage. With a huge battle royal against iOS and Android, it would be difficult for anybody else to dominate. This becomes particularly true when so many features on the PlayBook, such as e-mail and calendaring, are only available when tethered to a BlackBerry smartphone – rendering the device nearly useless to users who find themselves without one. To add insult to injury, the 3G models are yet to be released.
RIM launched the WiFi PlayBook back in April, at similar price points as the iPad, and hoped to sell more than 2 million units during the second quarter of this year. But late last month, RIM adjusted its sales target to less than a million – to put things in perspective, Apple sells about 10 million iPads per quarter.