RIM Rubbishes Rumors about Discontinuing PlayBook

by Yuyutsu Sen on October 3, 2011

PlayBook released in April this year failed to generate much interest in the tablet market. As yet the tablet is no threat to Apple’s iPad. While Apple sold as many as 1 million iPads in the first month of its release in April last year, Research in Motion (RIM) managed to sell only 500,000 PlayBooks in the first 6 weeks following its launch. Since rumors that RIM plans to discontinue the production of its WiFi-only PlayBook tablet hit the market, the Canadian wireless giant’s shares have slipped to almost $25.

However, the BlackBerry maker has brushed off the rumors. Marisa Conway, RIM spokeswoman, in a statement said that the rumors suggesting discontinuation of the production of PlayBook tablets are pure fiction. She further said that the tablet market and QNX platform were among the main areas of focus for the company. BlackBerry PlayBook is powered by QNX operating systems. RIM has also announced the launch of ‘superphones’ run on QNX in place of its existing aging software in the coming year.

John Vihn, a Collins Stewart semiconductor analyst, on Thursday indicated that the BlackBerry maker may have stopped PlayBook production, and may be planning to exit the tablet market and cancel additional tablet projects. Supporting his speculation, he pointed out to the recent layoff of a large number of workers at a Quanta Computer factory, which contract manufactures BlackBerry PlayBooks for RIM. Vihn also said that their investigation had led them to believe that additional tablet projects may have been canceled by the company.

In the market dominated by Apple’s iPad, RIM’s PlayBook was unable to make a place for itself. One of the main reasons for PlayBook tablets being thrashed was their inability to connect to the net over the latest cellular networks. Without BlackBerry subscription, users cannot access content or email. The company has promised the launch 4G PlayBooks in the coming months. In the mean while, both WiFi-only as well as 3G + WiFi iPads are being offered by Apple.

Moreover, the release of Kindle Fire, a cheaper and content rich tablet, by Amazon.com has further increased competition. According to the figures released by RIM, in its full second quarter, the company shipped only 200,000 PlayBooks. Many retailers are offering PlayBooks at discounted prices, which according to analysts is an effort to get rid of mounting inventory.

But RIM has firmly dismissed all such rumors. The company, while addressing the Canadian media, stressed that the tablet had been released in sixteen new markets across the globe in the last month. RIM also emphasized that in the next few weeks, additional rollouts in the Middle East, Western Europe and Southeast Asia were on the cards. In spite of RIM rubbishing the rumors, analysts believe that the BlackBerry maker may halt PlayBook production as it shifts focus on the launch of its new smartphones in the next few months. These will operate on BlackBerry 7, but by the next year, QNX operating system will be used to run all 4G tablets as well as smartphones.

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Written by: Yuyutsu Sen. www.digitcom.ca.

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