PlayBook: Dead tablet walking

Is the end nearing for Research in Motion's PlayBook tablet?

Is the PlayBook circling the drain?

According to PCWorld's Jared Newman, some retailers are pulling the PlayBook from their websites, and some customers who actually ordered the poor-selling RIM device have had their orders canceled.

This comes, of course, not long after the PlayBook's price was slashed to a low of $199, following in the footsteps of the TouchPad, which gathered dust on store shelves until HP announced it was killing off webOS and began offering the TouchPad for $99, losing money every time one was sold. Which generally is a bad way to run a business.

PCWorld's Newman thinks the latest news may have more to do with retailers selling out of the discounted PlayBooks than something more ominous for RIM:

Again, I'm just speculating, but given Research in Motion's statements of being committed to the Playbook, I don't think this a sign of the tablet going away.

I'm not so sure. RIM's announced commitment to the PlayBook came in response to an analyst who wrote in a note to clients in late September that "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."

If that were true, one way it might play out is that retailers would stop advertising the PlayBook because they're not getting any more, and customers would have orders canceled because there are no devices more to ship.

Further, the Canadian company said in late October that a planned update to PlayBook's OS, originally scheduled for earlier that month, won't launch until next February.

If, as I wrote then, it launches at all. I'm guessing RIM postponed work on the OS until after the holidays to see if the PlayBook still has a pulse. Otherwise they'd be wasting development resources on a doomed project.

However eager RIM is to reassure us, in the end its commitment to the PlayBook has to match the commitment of its retail channel partners and customers. Neither of which appear very committed to RIM's tablet at the moment. I don't see how that's going to change.

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