When the tech world first heard of the BlackBerry tablet, it was greeted with a fair amount of optimism. It was thought that the very daring (for RIM) device could be just what the company needed to get out of its unabashed slump in popularity, particularly in the United States. In addition, rumblings that the device would be able to run Android Market apps (and actually can now) had Android and RIM fans alike excited for the possibilities of cross-platform development.


Image Credit: Liliputing

Unfortunately, consumers never really went after the PlayBook in droves, and sales went from less-than-great to absolutely terrible by Q3 of 2011, at just 150,000 units sold for that 3 month period. By comparison, December sales estimates for Amazon's $200 Kindle Fire range from 3-4 million. RIM's tablet has managed to sell less than a quarter of that amount over the course of 8 months.

Retailers have been dumping off the CrackBerry tablets at $200 apiece for the lowly 16GB version off and on since November, and this price point has proven to be fairly popular with consumers, with stores like Best Buy and RadioShack regularly selling out of the device during the holiday season. To be fair, this was probably caused in large part by early holiday shoppers looking to get good deals on "a tablet" to gift to someone, with little knowledge of what it is they were actually buying, aside from being acutely aware of the fact that it was $300 cheaper than an iPad 2. At $200, the PlayBook out-specs Amazon's Kindle Fire considerably in terms of actual hardware, though it lacks any sort of app ecosystem without hacking the Android Market onto it. Even then, many apps just don't work with the device. Heck, it doesn't even have a native email app.

So, last night RIM decided to get aggressive with sales of the device, and initiated a full-on fire sale - unfortunately, they didn't quite make them cheap enough: $300 for all models. While this is the lowest price the company has ever sold the 32GB and 64GB versions of the device for, there's the glaring issue with the 16GB version coming in at the $300 mark when it has previously (and often) been offered for $100 less in the past few months. It seems more likely that RIM is attempting to offload what have probably been the almost impossible-to-sell 32 and 64GB iterations, the latter of which has an MSRP of $700 (and yes, it's Wi-Fi only).

Since RIM had to take a nearly half-billion dollar charge against its revenues in Q3 2011 due in large part to its unsold stock of PlayBooks, a clearance sale of some kind was inevitable. Our guess would be that Q4 sales of the device failed to meet RIM's expectations, and that they're now trying to sell off the device en masse before competing devices from Apple and various Android tablets start to make the PlayBook look woefully outdated.

Of course, RIM's biggest obstacle in getting the PlayBook into the hands of consumers will be the Kindle Fire, which despite being a less technically powerful device, has access to a near endless supply of Amazon videos, music, and Appstore apps. At $300, it's hard to see anyone choosing a 16GB PlayBook with its barren, dilapidated app landscape over the cheaper, content-rich Fire - a device whose future seems almost inevitably bright in comparison to the RIM tablet, which already apears to have one foot in the grave.

Blackberry Store via Gizmodo

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • augustofretes

    Since the hardware is soon similar to that of the kindle fire it would be awesome to buy one of this things for 150, 200 and put CM9 on it

    • drop

      exactly. It is OMAP4-based, as the Kindle Fire and the Galaxy Nexus, and it integrates 1GB of RAM.

      But I think the OMAP4 root protection was never defeated. So it will be tough to have a custom OS installed.

      • John

        A coworker where I work rooted one, and he posted online about doing it (but not how he did it). Within a day RIM contacted him and asked if he'd share how he did it, and being nice he told them how. A day later a patch was released by RIM.

  • steve

    I am usesing this now lying down and typeing. Got it for 199 it was a good deal for the specs of the device.Bluetooth works hdmi on the hotel tv ,apple mouse conects to it. Cant wait for android in Feb. Running 2.0 This works good so far.

  • Scott

    How is this even news? This has been going on for months.

  • Sam

    The lesson from the HP Touchpad's fire sale and Kindle Fire that manufacturers need to learn is that consumers aren't all that interested in $600 tablets. They want <$200 tablets. The madness that ensued when everyone was scrambling for and crashing major websites including Amazon and eBay for a $99 Touchpad was perfect evidence of this (especially when you consider that the exact same tablet wasn't selling at all 2 days earlier at the higher price).
    Amazon figured out how to make a cheap tablet and they're selling millions per month. Manufacturers including RIM should take notice.

    • Mark

      Why would I spend $500+ on a tablet when you could pick up Netbooks for $200-$300 all day long with full versions of Windows and ton's of capability? Spending $500-$600 on a tablet and having 'stripped down' versions of Apps (Like Skype) vs a $200 netbook with full versions of the app seemed dumb to me. But $200 for a tablet, even $300 for a nice tablet, maybe...

      • Ryan

        Tablets have touchscreens, battery live that is 4-10x longer than a netbook, and most have higher resolution screens.
        I used my aunt's netbook for a day (had to get a virus off, another thing tablets "don't" have). Just using the browser was a pain. The status bar/scroll bar take up about 20% off the screen real estate.

        Plus, I paid $300 for my Acer A500, about the same as most netbooks.

    • Scott

      Actually the lesson is if you want to take on Apple, you have to price your product <$200.

      Apple has no problem moving iPads for more than $500.

  • http://www.stealthcopter.com/blog Mat

    "device would be able to run Android Market apps (and actually can now) had Android and RIM fans alike excited" - I've not met any android devs who were actually excited about this.

  • mastermind26

    So is there any hope of actually getting a CM Rom to work on these (effectively making the same transitional work we saw for the HP Tablet)?

  • Pawnty

    To be honest I think RIM needs to just die as a company. So many of my friends have blackberrys and basically won't text me because I don't have BBM and it costs them for regular texting or something. All I see in a blackberry is a PDA with cellular functions and what is basically an IM app exclusively for Blackberries...

    • Mark

      Tell them to get Kik. It can be installed on Blackberry's, iPhone's and Android. No texting charges. Our company uses (or used) Blackberry with a BES server. But we no longer issue Blackberry's to new employees (iPhone 3gs or Atrix 2) and if a blackberry breaks/needs replacing it's replaced with Android/iPhone. But over half our company still has blackberry's and the other half "other", we found Kik to be a good solution for cross platform messaging and group chat, an acceptable BBM alternative.

  • Mark

    I'd buy the 64gb version for $300 if I knew Android could be put on it :-) It's spec's are nice.

  • SiliconAddict

    *shakes head* Why is it the folks at android police always come off as naive in just about every article you guys do? Seriously. I'm not trying to pick a fight for belittle you guys but....really?
    Do you think RIM wants to loose a metric crap ton on each sales? Obviously they are going to call it a fires sale see what they can get at $300 and then reduce from there. If anything it was HP that did it wrong. Great for the consumer, but as a business decision it was a retarded move. Each device for HP was around $320-$330 to produce, not including marketing, R&D, shipping, etc. So at minimum HP was eating anywhere from $200+ per device. HP may have money to burn, RIM does not. Just because you aren't getting a sweet price as a consumer does not make it a bad business decision. This is no different then charging a premium when a new device comes out for the early adopter and then dropping it as sales falls off.

    • David Ruddock

      Er, I think the *smart* thing for them to do is dump as many units as soon as possible - it's not like the demand curve is linear, here, people will just stop wanting these things if they become too outdated or the price isn't competitive enough.

      You're telling me that when two relatively high-profile devices in the market essentially occupying the same niche as your product (90% of consumers couldn't care less about "specifications"), that when you choose to price it above both of them while its aftermarket support and content access are pathetic by comparison, that it's a good business decision? I think it's obvious that RIM is misunderstanding the marketplace here, and that the previous modicum of success they achieved at the $200 mark before the Kindle Fire and NOOK Tablet showed up should have been a wakeup call to get while the getting was good.

      Now, there's an even more fiercely competitive marketplace, where most consumers aren't going to choose RIM's product, despite a deeply slashed price, because there is a readily available $200 tablet with a mountain of content that has already been proven a sales success. To mark the PlayBook "down" to $300 when most consumers would *still* not buy it at $200 is just delaying the inevitable.

      RIM gains nothing and loses a lot by selling a few tablets at $300. They lose a lot less by selling all of them at $150-225. There's only so much time before people won't even buy them at that price.

  • MJ

    Amazon and Barnes & Noble can afford to sell their tablets cheaper than others as they will recoup money through sales on their online stores.

  • http://htcwildfireapps.blogspot.com/ htc wildfire apps

    $300 seems abit expensive as the eee transformer is this price ? ?

  • Robert

    I'm offering a 100$. :)

  • http://droidsamurai.blogspot.com PixelSlave

    It's time for RIM to wave the white-flag and re-concentrate its effort in making a true Android tablet. Look, just pretend they have a superior OS than Android for a moment, but the Kindle Fire proved that being technically superior does not make a successful product. RIM just doesn't have the muscle to sell a consumer device, period. In fact, I don't even think Google has that neither, at least not in this moment -- just look at the sales of the B&N Nook Color/Tablet, even the Nook duo outsell many Android tablets. It's pretty clear that the market wants something with deep integration with a content ecosystem. RIM will have a hard time delivering it. Their best bet is to hope that Google eventually will get it right and they can ride along with Google's success.

  • Johnson

    I got mine from best buy because i was in the market for an ereader and since i got one for 200 but had a 100 dollar gift card, it was a ebook reader on steroids for $126.

    Granted, nothing beats ios. But if the price is right it is a worthy value buy. It needs android market badly though as "app world" is more like a tiny "app alleyway" with a single hobo.

    Hardware is nice, screen is nice, browser needs some work, touch accuracy is as every non-apple device, leaving much to be desired.

    I'm still happy though for $126

    • Zeit

      Quite frankly i regret giving in to all the iPad glorification , Just for the sake of variety and a change from my sgs2 I got hold of an iPad 2 , and only only two words "Huge Disappointment".
      and yeah the device iss pretty cool , the OS is simply frustrating and sick.

  • EngineerGA

    I got within a single click (had it in my cart) of buying a 16GB PlayBook for my BB 9930-toting wife. I showed her what I was doing, and she actually said she didn't care if it was faster or had more memory - she wanted a Kindle Fire instead to get the same free (Amazon app of the day) Android games I get on my Xoom.

    RIM needs to find some way to persuade developers to repackage their apps to run on the PlayBook. My understanding is that it isn't a really arduous process to get a working Android app to run on the PlayBook... you just have to want to access that market share. It's a tiny market share, so supporting a "new app" that is essentially your same old app on a new OS isn't worth it with only that tiny market share.

    It's a catch-22: devs don't want to waste their time packaging and supporting a "new version" of their apps because too few people would buy the apps; however, too few people buy the apps/PlayBook because those developers don't take the time to package and support the "new version." RIM needs to provide ample incentive for Android devs to come to the dark side to act as catalyst, or the PlayBook is never going to take off.

  • Scott

    This is the same mistake IBM made 30 years ago, which is why we have spent decades paying royalties to Microsoft. IBM thought technical excellence matters. They spent tens of millions hiring engineers to make O/S 2 bulletproof. Microsoft Windows crashed incessantly, but they paid manufacturers millions NOT to put O/S 2 on any machines. A couple of years later, the final build of O/S 2 rolls out to rave reviews. But with 100 million Windows machines already on peoples' desks, no devs would write programs for O/S 2. IBM's PC operating system software business died. RIM might as well spend their last $1 billion of cash giving away Playbooks, to grab market share. Otherwise they are toast.