Research in Motion is celebrating a (not so) small victory having announced that last week their PlayBook was the best selling tablet at Canadian Best Buy and Future Shop retail stores.
With just a few more sleeps until the Apple event we’ve all been waiting for in which we expect to see the launch of the third generation iPad, if anybody was going to dominate the tablet market they were going to have to do it over the last few weeks; particularly with the analyst expectation that those consumers interested in an iPad are likely looking forward to the new version or holding tight and hoping for discounted prices on the remaining stock of second generation units.
So what sparked the retail-rush for the PlayBook? It could be due in part to the release of PlayBook OS 2.0 which not only added native e-mail and calendar support but also opened the door to Android app support by way of sideloading them into an app player. Initial reviews of the updated operating system are overwhelmingly positive with the vast majority stating that this is the way the PlayBook should have been released in the first place.
It likely doesn’t hurt that the PlayBook has settled in nicely at the sub-$200 price-tag which cements their position as a value-tablet. In the beginning the price drop likely scared consumers (who can be hesitant to invest in a product line that they see as fleeting or temporary) who thought that RIM was circling the drain. While that may still be a possibility, enough time has passed that many people have likely forgotten that it ever used to be more expensive.
It could very well be that the considerable advertising news surrounding the up-and-coming iPad 3 and the successful Amazon Kindle Fire did RIM a favor of their own. While an increasing number of consumers become convinced that they need to own a tablet, many may be undecided on just how much money they want to invest and which platform they want to support. As those people walk into retail stores to give their products a touch and feel, RIM stands to do well –with a bright and crisp screen, the device interviews very nicely.
The PlayBook may have another key benefit: being seen as a ‘real tablet’ over the perceived ‘eReaders on Steroids'; a reputation that devices like Amazon’s Kindle Fire, Barnes and Noble’s Nook and Kobo’s Vox can’t seem to shake. While those devices are well reviewed they are just as often reported as being entry-level and limited.
I’m sure it wasn’t intentional but Amazon likely did RIM a huge favor when they failed to release the Kindle Fire for sale in Canada (which may very well be why the sales success is being reported for Canadian retail locations). If this ‘best option for the attractive and affordable lower price’ sales motivator proves to be accurate, the foot traffic generated by the launch of the iPad 3 may just keep RIM moving PlayBooks.
What I’d like to know is how many PlayBook owners are still (or ever were) BlackBerry owners. If RIM can rise above the usual brand loyalty and convince non-BlackBerry owners to buy their tablet, their market will open up considerably (and stay open).