Research In Motion will reportedly sell the upcoming BlackBerry PlayBook tablet for less than $500, bringing RIM head-to-head against Apple's iPad and other tablet contenders with a competitive price.
But will a consumer-friendly price tag be enough of a difference-maker? RIM can't expect to win the tablet wars -- or, really, compete in them all that effectively -- if a reasonable $500 is all it has to offer.
RIM announced the PlayBook in late September and plans to launch the tablet in the first quarter of the new year. It's a 7-inch, 1024 x 600 display device with a dual-core, 1 GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor -- enough to outgun the iPad -- and also a new OS thanks to QNX, the developer that RIM bought earlier this year. Pound-for-pound, the PlayBook appears to stack up well against iPad and Samsung's Galaxy Tab, and other existing and forthcoming tablets.
At the time of the announcement, RIM didn't confirm pricing or exact availability, but RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie confirmed more details in an interview from Seoul with Bloomberg, published Wednesday. Although Balsillie didn't give the exact planned price of the PlayBook, he told Bloomberg's Jun Yang it would be "under $500" and "will be very competitively priced." Availability will be in North America in the first quarter and globally in the second quarter, Balsillie said.
Unfortunately for RIM, the vague pronouncement from Balsillie still leaves more questions than answers, including how RIM plans to use PlayBook to shore up its appeal to enterprise business users in the face of iPad's enterprise offensive. RIM seems to be resting on that appeal, as well as positioning PlayBook as a best-in-class option for developers and a showpiece device for lovers of Adobe Flash.
But despite its platform and processing punch, PlayBook appears to lack the connectivity options of rivals like the Samsung Tab, and given the long-awaited updates to iOS contained in Apple's 4.2 release, much of what the iPad lacked in comparative features appears to have been resolved.
And what about the channel? Solution providers are a major competitive advantage for RIM and key to pushing PlayBook into the enterprise harder and faster than the iPad is getting there. With so few details about how RIM sees the PlayBook arriving, the PlayBook's a nice-looking device with an uncertain future. Give us more details, RIM, and a rock-solid channel strategy, and we'll get more excited.