RIM is the Newt Gingrich of the tablet market

PlayBook manufacturer insists it's taking tablet race all the way to the convention!

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You know how third-tier presidential candidates who are polling in the single digits try to kill rumors that they're dropping out of the race by indignantly insisting they're in it for the long haul, and then three days later they "suspend" campaign operations" (i.e. quit)?

I think BlackBerry PlayBook maker Research in Motion, much like delusional GOP candidate Newt Gingrich, is close to that point. The big tipoff is RIM's dismissive refutation of an analyst's comments that the company is looking for a tablet exit strategy.

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

Here's what Collins Stewart semiconductor analyst John Vihn wrote in a note to clients, as reported by Reuters:

"We believe RIM has stopped production of its PlayBook and is actively considering exiting the tablet market. ... Additionally, our due diligence indicates that RIM has canceled development of additional tablet projects."

What would lead Vihn to draw such a dire conclusion? For starters, he cites news from last week that Quanta Computer, a contract manufacturer, has "laid off a significant number of workers at a factory focused on producing the PlayBook," Reuters writes.

On top of that, though, are the cold, hard numbers. RIM shipped 500,000 PlayBooks in its fiscal first quarter ending in May, and that was for only half of the quarter (the PlayBook came out last April). The shipment numbers for the second quarter were a dismal 200,000, or about the number of dollars Newt has in his campaign war chest/Tiffany's revolving account.

And remember, shipments don't equal sales. That's why retailers are drastically slashing prices on PlayBooks even as we speak.

All of this is reminiscent of the pattern that played out with Tim Pawlenty-- I mean, with Hewlett-Packard and its TouchPad tablet.

RIM, however, says it ain't so. In an email to Reuters, spokeswoman Marisa Conway said, "Rumors 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."

Highly committed! Unfortunately, consumers appear much less committed to the PlayBook, which is the bottom line, much as campaign contributions and voter support determine the fate of presidential campaigns.

Of course, RIM and Newt already know this. They just can't admit it yet.

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