RIM dumping BlackBerry PlayBooks for $299

RIM is in a world of hurt. One could argue that tablets should be the last thing they should be worrying about. Their bread and butter business -- messaging smartphones -- is getting crushed by Apple iOS and Google Android.

BlackBerry Playbook
CES 2011 - better days for the BlackBerry Playbook (and Motorola Xoom)
BlackBerry Playbook
CES 2011 - better days for the BlackBerry Playbook (and Motorola Xoom)

New year. New low price. Same strategy. When it comes to the also-rans in the tablet wars–and there are many big names including Samsung, Motorola, Lenovo–slashing prices has seemingly become the only way to attract buyers.

Now RIM, maker of the BlackBerry PlayBook once the darling of tablets (around this time last year at CES 2011), is back at it. All PlayBooks have been reduced to just $299. This includes the 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models. Though why anyone would pay $299 for the 16GB model when they can get four times the memory for the same discounted price is a mystery only are friends in Waterloo could explain.

The move follows Sony, who recently dropped the price on its (brand spanking new) Tablet S by $100.

“price cuts for 2011 Android tablets are an unavoidable inevitability, something next week’s CES tech news – and that upcoming iPad 3 launch – should make clearer than ever.” – ITWire

Is price cutting a sustainable long-term strategy to gain share?

Likely not. While Apple is the leader by a long shot (perhaps the largest advantage in any market segment in tech history), there is opportunity, however, at he low end. Here, there is potential to grab a sale to a consumer reluctant to fork over $500+ for an Apple iPad.

Amazon has worked some magic, and by some accounts has stripped some 1-2 million iPad sales from Apple this holiday season thanks to its low-priced, but highly functional, Kindle Fire tablet. Price is not the only difference. While Apple is content so far to offer one size (10-inch), others, including Amazon, have had some success with smaller, more portable sizes (notably 7-inch).

RIM is in a world of hurt; the ghosts of Nortel beckon. One could argue that tablets should be the last thing they should be worrying about. Their bread and butter business — messaging smartphones for the enterprise — is getting crushed by Apple iOS and Google Android. So this latest sale could be an effort to dump PlayBook inventory once and for all. There’s an outside chance it could be to make room for a newer model. But reports over the last month have suggested any new tablet from RIM won’t happen until the latter part of the year.

The world may not end in 2012, but RIM’s world is looking decidedly precarious.

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