Friday, August 12, 2011

RIM's Tablet Aspiration In Danger Of Ending Prematurely; Is There Anything RIM Can Do?

As far as we know, the Playbook is still on sale for $500.  

Earlier, I reported that Sprint is not going forward with a WiMax version of RIM's Playbook.  Well, that's a bummer.  But for the moment, a LTE version running on Verizon's LTE network is still in the works.  And earlier this morning, we brought you exciting news that 7" Honeycomb based tablets will go on sale this weekend for as low as $330.

Then there's also the fact that the 10" Touchpad is now $100 cheaper than when it went on sale about a year ago.  

I don't have to do the math for you to know where I am going with this.

Sprint cancelled its WiMax Playbook largely because of what it saw with the sales of the Wi-Fi version.  In the last financial call, RIM confirmed it shipped 500,000 Playbooks to channels but refused to say what the sell-through was.  Judging by Sprint's move, things are probably more bleak than even we expected.

According to Marketwatch, AT&T is still planning on carrying the Playbook for use on its network but there is no date pointing to when that'll happen.  Meanwhile, Verizon Wireless is still "evaluating" the Playbook.  I reckon Verizon will take into account the Sprint cancellation as part of its evaluation process.

So, is there anything RIM can do?  Not in the short term.  The Playbook, by all accounts, is a very nice piece of technology.  Unfortunately, it was rushed to the market prematurely, before key features like native mail support is ready.  One would have thought that a company specializing in mobile mail would have made it a priority for its tablet.

And now, it has to compete with Android devices every bit just as powerful and with more app support.  And these similarly sized 7" tablets are $150 to $170 cheaper than the Playbook.

RIM should focus effort on making sure the essentials are taken cared off.  It should have also made damn sure it had a respectable selection of apps.  Trying to get Android apps to work on the Playbook is just not the way to go.  If You're a developer, why develop native Playbook apps when you can just develop for the Android and know that it'll work on the Playbook.

What RIM ought to do is focus on the super phones running on its QNX OS, the same OS powering the Playbook now.  It's likely to find more success pushing QNX phones to its corporate customers who have remained loyal to the Blackberry ecosystem.  They're more likely to adopt the QNX-based smartphones than the Playbook.

RIM has to be very careful and not have another Playbook-like launch.  Everything would have to be perfect.  Even if it has to delay the launch to dot cross the "t"s" and dot the "i's" and put up backlash from the tech media and blogs, that's what it'll have to do.  

If reception is warm and the good will for the company returns, RIM can go onto to the tablet market.  As far as anyone's concerned, the Playbook cannot compete with the iPad and the Android devices at this time.  

RIM has to remember that its core business is its smartphones.  It's been losing market share all over the world (yes, it's growing but simply not fast enough to keep up with its competitors).  Beyond North America, the one bright spot is the international markets.  But it's about to face a Nokia reborn with Microsoft's latest Windows Phone, Mango.

Protecting its turf is the best course of action.  Enterprise and QNX phones.

And as where things stand now, what would the average mobile warrior pick up:  a $330 tablet running the latest Android OS, Honeycomb 3.2 or a $500 Playbook missing key essential features and with very little app support?

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