Research in Motion has dropped the price of the base model of its tablet temporarily to $199 in what appears to be a last ditch effort to generate some enthusiasm.
If the BlackBerry PlayBook has been on your wish list, now is the time to dive in. RIM has chopped $300 off of every model. The 16-GB model is now $199, the 32-GB model is $299, and for $399, you can have the 64-GB version. Will this spur sales and help create a user base?
RIM only shipped 200,000 in its first quarter of launch, a disappointing number when you realize that the iPad 2 moves that same amount every 48 hours.
When HP dropped the price of the TouchPad to $199, retail outlets like Best Buy blew through existing inventory before lunch. Everyone recognized that for what it was: a rock-bottom closeout special. For $199, you got what you got and recognized that platform updates would be few, if any, and the developer interest would rapidly evaporate since the platform was being discontinued.
Retail outlets, including WalMart, Office Depot, Radio Shack, and Best Buy will be holding the PlayBook sale until at least December 3, so don't worry about standing in line on Black Friday.
This sale is different in at least two ways from the TouchPad sale. First, the PlayBook isn't yet a standalone device. Neither BlackBerry email nor the popular BlackBerry Messenger service are available on the PlayBook. The device was supposed to be updated this year to include those features, but it has been pushed to 2012. That is important because the PlayBook would only appeal to existing BlackBerry users. Using the BlackBerry Bridge, you can get your corporate email and use BBM on the tablet, but without a BlackBerry, the tablet is limited. Therefore, the market is instantly limited, $199 price or not.
Second, and this is good news, the PlayBook isn't being discontinued. Buying one at this price if it fits your needs is an investment that should pay off for at least a year or so, assuming RIM continues to support it.
There is no doubt RIM is taking a loss on each one sold, but it becomes a marketing strategy to grow the user base. If this sale is only half as successful as the TouchPad sale, it should breathe new life into the struggling platform. The big question, though, is are there enough BlackBerry fans left that want to put yet more money into the platform?
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