Stop me if you've heard this one before. A struggling tablet with ambitious dreams of taking on Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPad walks into an online store and asks the shopkeeper for advice on how to jumpstart uninspiring sales.
Oh, so you have heard this one before. I guess we can just skip to the punchline: a massive price cut. Unfortunately, the company making the beleaguered gadget is the butt of the joke. Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) should be used to it by now, anyway.
The BlackBerry maker is now selling all three PlayBook models for $299. That's right, the same price for the 16 GB, 32 GB, or 64 GB models, which results in discounts of $200, $300, and $400, respectively. Last time, third-party retailer Best Buy (NYSE: BBY ) had a similar sale with the two upper-end models also at pricing parity, which was four short months ago. The discount back then maxed out at $150 when buying the 64 GB PlayBook for $550.
This must be what the company meant when it said that "an increase in promotional activity is required to drive sell-through to end customers," even if the price points are nonsensical. The latest sale, which is available directly from RIM, goes for about another month, just in time for twice-delayed PlayBook OS 2.0. The software update will bring luxuries like native email and calendar apps along with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android support, assuming it isn't delayed again.
I'm still scratching my head on how RIM can justifiably call it a "truly uncompromised tablet experience."
Presumably, the sale will end and prices will jump back up to iPad-esque levels of $499, $599, and $699 right before the PlayBook is infused with basic features that virtually any tablet user takes for granted, which is nearly a full year after its debut and the iPad 3's arrival is likely imminent.
In the meantime, Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) already offers a device that looks identical (because of a shared third-party manufacturer), has a superior integrated content ecosystem along with said basic features, and is available for $199 before any discounts. Oh, and a Kindle Fire 2 may also be imminent.
Good luck trying to jack those prices back up, RIM. The handful of prospective PlayBook buyers already know they just have to wait a few months before you kick prices back down again, and one of these days they'll have to stay down for the count.
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