More bad news for RIM: PlayBook OS update delayed 4 months (or maybe forever)

Tablet upgrade expected earlier this month pushed back until at least February

Share of Research in Motion fell more than 6% Wednesday after the BlackBerry maker announced its update of the troubled PlayBook tablet OS, originally scheduled for earlier this month, won't launch until next February.

RIM shares were trading Wednesday morning as low as 20.78, or 6.7% below Tuesday's closing price of 22.27.

David Smith, RIM senior vice president, dropped the bomb in a Tuesday blog post:

"As much as we’d love to have it in your hands today, we’ve made the difficult decision to wait to launch BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 until we are confident we have fully met the expectations of our developers, enterprise customers and end-users. And here’s what we’re doing to accomplish that. ...

"We expect to deliver the new BlackBerry PlayBook OS to customers in February 2012 and we’ll continue to keep you updated as we progress to the launch."

In between those two paragraphs are a lot of cheerleading and self-congratulations about PlayBook's "unmatched enterprise app deployment" and "powerful performance," both highly dubious claims.

RIM would like the world to believe that everything's going just swell with PlayBook, but clearly it's not. Reviews have been poor, sales have been abysmal, and now the update that was supposed to address numerous shortcomings is being pushed back by four months.

(Also see: Beginning of the end for RIM's PlayBook)

Even worse, Smith informs us that one of the most glaring problem with the PlayBook -- its lack of a native BBM app -- won't be addressed in the planned OS upgrade. "In the meantime," Smith assures us, "BlackBerry smartphone users will be able to continue to use BlackBerry Bridge to securely access BlackBerry Messenger on the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet’s high resolution display." Tethering addicts rejoice!

As one might expect, comments below Smith's blog show that PlayBook users are taking news of the upgrade delay in stride:

"We've all be fed a pack of lies since launch of the device, I wasted £300 on the promise of Native Email, Android Player and DLNA by the end of summer....now 2012....when will the delays end 2013?"

"Totally, completely unacceptable. The release of key features like email and calendar being delayed another four months means I'll be getting a new device."

"I've lost hope. I'll be buying an iPad now."

It's entirely reasonable at this point to question RIM's dedication to upgrading the PlayBook OS at all. Shipments of the tablet have plummeted, and the lack of consumer enthusiasm is palpable. My guess is the company will wait to see if the holiday shopping season can revive the PlayBook's pulse. If not, don't hold your breath for 2.0.

Of course, the good news is that this really doesn't affect a lot of people. There's always a silver lining in the dark clouds.

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