Let's say you want to buy a Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM) PlayBook for Christmas.

No, seriously.

Let's say you want the BlackBerry-centric tablet. You wind up at RIM's website. The price points start at $499. You thought they were being cleared out for far less than that, but you shake that off. PlayBooks being sold en masse at $199 for a limited time through some retailers must've been just a dream.

You decide you still want one -- even though now it's priced more like Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPad than Amazon.com's (Nasdaq: AMZN) Kindle Fire -- but then you see this tantalizing disclaimer:

Notice to Customers: Due to high volume of PlayBook orders, orders may take up to 7-14 business days to ship.

Wow! The PlayBook must really be hot if an order placed today is unlikely to beat Santa Claus to your door.

Where is this high volume coming from, you may ask? Wasn't the PlayBook a dud? Despite having 70 million BlackBerry subscribers, RIM sold just roughly 200,000 tablets during its fiscal second quarter that ended in August.

Well, it's at this point you realize that the clearance sale of $199 wasn't just a fantasy. Just a few days before the end of its fiscal third quarter, RIM did offer Kindle Fire-priced tablets through Best Buy (NYSE: BBY), Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT), and a few other partners at a rock-bottom price. RIM even pitched it on Twitter in a Nov. 21 missive:

The #BlackBerry #PlayBook is at select #US & #Canadian retailers starting at $199. Limited time.

So what's the truth? Is there a high enough volume of pending PlayBook orders at $499, $599, and $699 that the smartphone pioneer can't seem to crank them out fast enough, or was RIM's inventory simply depleted by the $199 fire sale?

And let's cut to the obvious omission: When RIM reports earnings tonight -- and it reports far more than 200,000 PlayBooks being sold in its quarter ending Nov. 26 -- is it going to be honest about how many of those were picked up during its 60%-off sale? If not, will there be a sucker out there who believes the high number, runs off to the BlackBerry website to order one, and gets even more desperate on the realization that delivery is a couple of weeks away?

Did you see RIM top Herb Greenberg's list of the worst CEOs of 2011 on CNBC yesterday? Believe RIM at your own risk.

If you want to see how the tablet battle plays out, follow the players by adding Google, Research In Motion, Microsoft, Amazon.com, and Apple to My Watchlist.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.