Eighteen months after unveiling its entry into the highly contentious tablet wars, Research In Motion has barely made a dent in the market. In its second-quarter earnings report last week, the Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry manufacturer said it moved just 130,000 PlayBook tablets in the quarter.
The reigning king of the market, Apple, shipped more than 17 million iPads in the quarter, nearly double the 9.25 million of the same quarter in 2011, while distant-second Samsung shipped 2.3 million of its various sized Galaxy Tabs, more than double its 1.10 million shipments for the first quarter, according to research by The Wall Street Journal.
RIM's output was also dwarfed by smaller players such as Asus and Acer, and by Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet.
The PlayBook, first released in April 2011, is based on the QNX operating system RIM acquired in 2010, and won mixed reviews, earning cheers for multitasking and controls but jeers for its lack of apps or even native e-mail capability. While critics didn't know what to make of its 7-inch display size at first, that form factor has become more common with Samsung's smaller Galaxy Tab and other devices like the Kindle Fire and Google's Nexus 7. Apple is expected to enter the 7-inch market with an iPad mini soon.
"RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook tablet has suffered from an identity crisis since its introduction," Jeff Orr, devices senior practice director at ABI Research, told us.
"Technically, the device was ahead of its time and still remains the only commercially available tablet capable of multitasking applications -- running concurrently; not switching)."
But Orr said RIM took a wrong turn in its strategy of making the PlayBook essentially obsolete to those who don't also have a BlackBerry smartphone with associated services.
"This automatically limited the potential audience of the tablet to an installed base of handsets," Orr said. "It could never appeal to the general audiences that seek value from the computing power of a portable PC with a form-factor larger than a smartphone. As a result, its total available market has remained small compared to other tablet vendors."
Orr added that a version of the PlayBook compatible with 4G, long-term evolution high-speed data for Canadian customers is a strong step forward but arguably too little, too late compared with what the competition is up to. And its precarious financial situation as it struggles to regain market share lost to Apple and Android-based devices doesn't help, either.
"RIM's struggles through restructuring and developing its BlackBerry OS 10 platform for next-generation handsets have obviously been a distraction for how to advance the tablet portfolio," Orr said. "The good news is that BB10 is built from an OS platform proven by BlackBerry PlayBook and the [feedback] from both business and consumer tablet audiences will help yield a more robust handset solution; however, the future of non-handset products from RIM remains unclear."
RIM released a 2.1 update to the PlayBook's software Wednesday, providing long-awaited fixes for the tablet. Those include e-mail enhancements, better Android app support, the ability to print via Wi-Fi, and portrait orientation for calendar, contacts and messages.
Posted: 2012-11-07 @ 10:24am PT
Bought first one in July '12 (32GB) and my second in September (64GB). Love them both. :-)
Agree fully with Arun below.
Posted: 2012-11-02 @ 9:04pm PT
Had a galaxy tab and had to replace the battery within a year, pathetic! It got slower with each app installed. Email even crashed (forced closed) at least thrice a day... Saw and played with a demo PlayBook once in the phone shop and within a week I sold my tab and have never looked back on PlayBook. I agree iPad and Samsung can eat its dust. Bring on BB10.
Posted: 2012-10-26 @ 8:43am PT
Love my Playbook. And, Arun, it's also missing a lot of very useful Android apps... but if it survives, time will adress that. I also have a Samsung Andtoid tablet... but there is absolutely no comparison technically or from a quality point of view. RIM's big mistake was releasing the tablet before it was ready.
Posted: 2012-10-24 @ 1:08pm PT
"Unifi Scientific" is going after RIM, Samsung, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Texas Instruments -- all companies that have produced devices that utilize a specific battery charging technology. http://bit.ly/UihK8L
Posted: 2012-10-21 @ 12:30am PT
I use a playbook and I can tell you, it more than satisfies what I want from a tablet - smooth web surfing, plays the various video formats, syncs email/calendar/contacts. What it doesnt have is the zillion useless apps on the android store and some of the more useful ones like skype. The best part is, its half the cost of a comparable device today
Posted: 2012-10-07 @ 10:01am PT
I have a Playbook and an iPad. I use my Playbook for web browsing and getting my e-mails. I also love the bridge function (that's why I bought it). I would sell my iPad if I wasn't so attached to some of the apps. Apps aside, the Playbook is superior in every way.
Posted: 2012-10-04 @ 7:25pm PT
Playbook owners have been saying they love it in consumer review sites, media 'experts' have been trashing it, who's right? Why the disconnect between the media and consumer on this product...perhaps some bias?
Posted: 2012-10-04 @ 4:14pm PT
I'm reading and responding to this on an iPad, but am going to pick up a playbook after dinner...half the price of the iPad, has better web expieriance, flash and I want to get ready for BB10!!
Posted: 2012-10-04 @ 8:36am PT
Where's your data on the Acer and Asus tablets?
Posted: 2012-10-04 @ 5:57am PT
I agree with most of this article. I think they failed to market it properly and set expectations. The media also jumped on them partially because of this. They were expecting integrated email synching like the blackberry phones and more apps like the iPad. When I first saw the playbook I was shocked at how small it was sitting beside all the 10 inch tablets. The 10" tablets were awkward to carry around - might as well carry a laptop. I ended up buying 2 on sale and they are pretty good. I didn't have have a blackberry phone so I was happy with the email - not til later did I understand what was meant by synching and coordinating all email accounts and messaging. This 2.1 release shows that RIM is committed to this market long-term. Apparently the new blackberry 10 OS will run on it and they just released a suped up LTE version of it. I think there is now an eco-system in place (it is just very small compared to the iPad).
Posted: 2012-10-03 @ 9:41pm PT
If it wasn't for the media spreading lies about the playbook it would of done well. I got the playbook on sale and it's better then my ipad. It's funny how a technically better tablet gets bashed. The playbook was light years ahead of the ipad when it just came out. The media is filled with shills.