RIM Discontinues 16-GB BlackBerry PlayBook


Research In Motion said Thursday that it is discontinuing the production of its 16-GB BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, the most recent in a series of announcements suggesting the Waterloo, Ontario-based company is struggling to keep up with mobile giants Apple and Google.

RIM said it will continue to sell the 32-GB and 64-GB versions of the PlayBook, which first hit shelves last January, as their higher storage capacity continues to offer "more value" to BlackBerry customers.

"RIM will no longer be making the 16-GB model of the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet," RIM told CRN. "The 16-GB PlayBook will continue to be available for distributors and retailers while quantities last. We continue to remain committed to the tablet space and the 32-GB and 64-GB models of the BlackBerry PlayBook continue to be available from our distributors and retailers around the world."

[Related: RIM Gets Dimmer: Layoffs, Q1 Loss Likely]

RIM updated its PlayBook line in February when it launched PlayBook OS 2.0, a second-generation OS that armed the tablets with native e-mail capabilities and a unified inbox to host both work and personal e-mail, along with messages from Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. The original PlayBook OS had lacked these native capabilities and required users to manually transfer e-mail functionality from their BlackBerry smartphones to the tablet via the BlackBerry Bridge application.

BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 also sparked the arrival of what RIM said was "thousands" of new BlackBerry apps, along with the ability to download approved Android apps.

But even with these enhancements in place, RIM in March reported bleak sales numbers for the PlayBook, having shipped a mere 500,000 units in its fiscal fourth quarter. By point of comparison, Apple in April reported selling 11.8 million iPads during its second quarter.

RIM first pointed to weak tablet sales in December, when it said it would be recording a pretax provision of $485 million due to "high levels" of unsold PlayBook inventory.