Mobility News

RIM Says It's Not Planning To Ditch Wi-Fi PlayBook

Amy Berryhill

"Rumors suggesting that the WiFi version of the BlackBerry PlayBook is being discontinued are pure fiction," RIM told CRN Monday in an e-mail statement. "Over the past month, the PlayBook has launched in 16 additional markets around the world and further rollouts are planned for Southeast Asia, Western Europe and the Middle East in the coming weeks."

According to Boy Genius Report, RBC Capital Markets and OTR Global both reported that RIM is considering halting production of the Wi-Fi Playbook, the only model it's currently selling, due to slow sales.

Alan Gould, president and CEO of Westlake Software, a wireless solution provider in Calabasas, Calif., believes that RIM's only hope for the PlayBook is the Wi-Fi version. Removing the Wi-Fi-enabled PlayBook from the product line up would be "extraordinarily reactionary" and a bad move in light of the business relationship RIM has with cellular carriers, Gould said.

"RIM's entire business model is founded on sharing revenue with the carriers," said Gould. "The PlayBook is a great product, but I don't think the carriers want to sell it, because they don't want to sell Blackberry if they have to give a percentage of sales back to them. You remove the wireless element and I would say goodbye to RIM."

RIM originally said it plans to launch a 4G-enabled version of the PlayBook this summer, but co-CEO Mike Lazaridis said during an earnings call in June that the release would happen this Fall.

The Wi-Fi version of the PlayBook launched in April to mixed reviews. After selling about 500,000 PlayBooks from mid-April to early June, RIM reduced internal forecasts for second quarter PlayBook sales from 2.4 million units to 800,000-900,000 units, the Taiwan-based technology news outlet Digitimes reported in June.

The 7-inch PlayBook is RIM's key challenger in the battle for tablet dominance among Apple's iPad, a host of devices running Google Android and a number of other mobile operating systems. The PlayBook uses QNX, the operating system RIM acquired with its acquisition of QNX Software Systems in April 2010.

The predicted production halt of the Wi-Fi Playbook follows a report on Monday, by market researcher ChangeWave, that said both customer satisfaction and planned purchases of RIM smartphones are continuing on a downward trajectory.

According to the ChangeWave survey results, 26 percent of customers are 'very satisfied' with the RIM OS on their smartphone, while 70 percent are 'very satisfied' with Apple's iOS. Of those planning to buy a smartphone in the next 90 days, 4 percent would prefer a phone with RIM's operating system, compared to 46 percent who would prefer Apple's iOS.

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