The BlackBerry PlayBook is now available at 60 percent of its original price. Photo: Jon Snyder/Wired.com
When in doubt, hold a fire sale.
Research in Motion is slashing prices on its BlackBerry PlayBook tablets yet again, dropping the bill to 60 percent of the PlayBook’s original asking price. From the first of the year through Feb. 4, PlayBooks ordered directly from RIM’s online store front will cost $300 for any version, regardless of storage capacity.
If you’re able to score a high-capacity version, it’s not a bad deal. 64GB PlayBooks sell for $700 retail, while the 32GB versions go for a cool $600. Saving three or four hundred bucks on new hardware with premium specs could prove attractive to bargain hunters.
The new promotion represents yet another effort to push PlayBooks into consumer hands. When RIM dropped tablet prices by $300 on Black Friday, demand surged, and third-party retailers like Best Buy and Staples were unprepared for the rush. In fact, the discount tablets were on back-order before the end of the day.
This time around, however, the discounted tablets will only be available from RIM directly. Staples and OfficeMax are still sold out of RIM’s tablets, while Best Buy’s PlayBooks are still priced at $500.
So why is RIM holding a fire sale?
Conventional wisdom says it’s a business move focused on the long haul. In order to create demand for its App World ecosystem, RIM needs to seed the market with hardware. App World currently hosts somewhere between 5,000 to 10,000 BlackBerry PlayBook apps, a tally that pales in comparison to what’s offered by mobile giants Apple and Google, whose app numbers are in the hundreds of thousands.
On the other hand, RIM is in a financial mess. The company took a near half-billion-dollar hit after deeply discounting PlayBooks for the first fire sale, basically selling the 16GB versions at cost, according to estimates. It’s tough to determine whether the company is losing money on its most recent sale, or just reducing its margins.
To put it lightly, RIM has had a rough year. After the rocky launch of the PlayBook, stock prices plummeted to nearly a quarter of what they were in 2010. Promises of critical software updates for the tablet went unfulfilled. Rioters in London used RIM’s BlackBerry Messenger product as a key tool in organized looting. And, recently, a report suggested that RIM co-CEOs Mike Laziridis and Jim Balsillie could be stripped of their other executive titles as chairmen of the company board.
Needless to say, the ailing company is desperately in need of a jumpstart. If RIM can get enough devices in the hands of consumers to produce a demand for software, developers could be convinced to start creating apps for the platform.
It’s a longshot, but what other choice does RIM have?