Research In Motion’s (RIM) BlackBerry Playbook tablet, 16 GB version, is listed as sold out on BlackBerry’s website. It’s sold out at BestBuy.com… and at Amazon.com too.
But confusion reigns. While it’s listed as sold out at those locations, some news sites are reporting that RIM is stuck with a tablet they just can’t sale. Other sites are reporting that the BlackBerry Playbook has been selling like gangbusters.
One thing does appear certain, RIM is handling their struggling tablet very differently than HP handled theirs.
Most of you are well versed in what happened with the HP TouchPad (at least if you have been reading NFS). When HP launched the TouchPad with a price that was equal to the iPad, consumers chose the iPad. The TouchPad sat unwanted on store’s shelves. HP got rid of it by having a $99 firesale, and discontinued production of the TouchPad. Of course, in the process, HP also got rid of their CEO and got a new one… and many of us got a pretty cool tablet pretty darn cheap.
RIM has run into a similar situation. When the Blackberry Playbook was launched in April, it wasn’t prepared to go up against the iPad either. Heck, it really wasn’t even ready to go up against itself. The operating system was half-baked, literally. RIM asked consumers to purchase the tablet even though it lacked certain features that would make it really useful. RIM said those features would come in an update within two months of it being launched. But that update got put off, and put off again, and now is due in February of 2012.
So, much like the TouchPad, the Playbook lacked any kind of serious sales. But rather than go the HP firesale route, RIM appears to be taking a different tack.
Just before Black Friday, they dropped the price of the BlackBerry Playbook (16GB version) to $199, $300 off its full retail price. But it wasn’t a permanent price drop, and they have not announced a discontinuation of the tablet. In fact, on Friday, Mike Lazaridis, Co-CEO of RIM, said ““RIM is committed to the BlackBerry PlayBook and believes the tablet market is still in its infancy.” He went on to say “we believe the PlayBook, which will be further enhanced with the upcoming PlayBook OS 2.0 software, is a compelling tablet for consumers that also offers unique security and manageability features for the enterprise.”
However, RIM also said on Friday that they have a huge backlog of inventory, but had seen a positive response due to promotional activities (we assume the price drop was part of that).
Generally speaking, it looks like RIM has found a price point that the Playbook will sell ata, $199. As of yesterday though, the limited time price drop has expired. They are now listing the Playbook at $499, and they also say it is out of stock – which doesn’t jibe with the ‘high level’ of inventory they say they have.
Perhaps the ‘out of stock’ is simply a way of giving them a break as they prepare for their next move… or maybe a way to heighten interest and demand. It’s unlikely that they can continue offering the Playbook at $199 indefinitely, as its probably zeros out any profit on it… and might even be a loss at that price.
What does the future hold for the Blackberry Playbook? NFS contacted RIM on Friday and asked about future pricing. The answer was that individual merchants that sell the Playbook would set their own prices – not really an answer to what we were looking for.
RIM can’t sit on a $499 price and a status of ‘sold out’ for long if they really have lots of Playbooks in inventory. We should see some movement on that soon – and we will report it here as soon as we do.