Kindle lights Fire under Playbook’s tail

The recent announcement about the Amazon Kindle Fire (henceforth known as Fire) have created quite a stir in the tech world. It’s a cheap tablet that was aimed to hit those people who don’t want to spend $500+ on an iPad or similar device. What do you lose? A camera or two, an SD reader, 3G capability and some internal memory. This is offset by Amazon’s Cloud Drive and $300 cash. Apple, Samsung and Motorola don’t seem to be phased, because their feature list is a lot longer, but RIM doesn’t seem convinced that it’s all gonna be okay.

Today RIM’s PlayBook, the device we’ve been thoroughly confused by, received a $200 price cut. Some say that this is because they’re scared that the Playbook holds no interest to anyone, and that they will lose the tiny market share that they’ve undoubtedly paid too much to gain. However, RIM says they’re dedicated to the tablet market, and “Rumors suggesting that the BlackBerry PlayBook is being discontinued are pure fiction” according to Marisa Conway, a company spokesperson.

RIM has a lot to fear. Their tablet isn’t very popular and certainly isn’t the first name you think of when you go shopping for a tablet. The Xoom and the Galaxy Tab have the Android market pretty well under control (even though the Playbook will have “limited” Android support soon) and Apple has their own corner on the tablet market. What’s a tablet maker to do? The only way they had of competing was to lower prices and hope people would compromise.

Enter Amazon, and their non-competitor to the iPad/Xoom/Galaxy Tab. It’s got a price point over the defunct TouchPad line, but promises that support and more apps will be available. It surfs the web, it’s got games, and a nice, clean marketplace. The Playbook is now officially up the creek, and the Fire just burned their canoe.

Executives at RIM seem to know what’s going on, as they seem to be jumping ship at a rather frightening pace. Now that BlackBerry isn’t the only widely-supported enterprise phone, they’ve lost a dedicated market. With that market, they’ve lost the ability to cross-sell their tablet to businesses, when Android and iPad offer the same services, but with a more recognizable name. You don’t want to show up at a marketing meeting with the worst business card – or tablet.

But for $300, do you want a full-featured tablet? That’s what is happening. It’s not a firesale like the TouchPad, which screamed “We’re done here, get these off our hands”; nor is it a compromise like the Fire: “We’ve got a lot to offer, and won’t charge you for what you don’t get.” To be fair, the Playbook is a solid enough tablet, but I don’t see the support for it. I don’t really like the OS, either. It seems like the inbred spawn of iOS ideas and Android haphazdry. You could read the entire spec sheet to me, then tell me $300 and I’d be all over it, until you said “Blackberry.”

I’m not the only one who thinks this way. There are rumors of RIM sitting on 800,000 unsold units, and their stock seems to reflect failures. If they want to clear out the warehouse, why not price it at $200 to directly compete with the Fire (Hell, even get a video-enabled Skype app so you can use it to chat like you can with other tablets). Sure, you may take a loss, but at least you’re getting units out the door, and into the hands of people who will talk about them. I can’t (properly) convince someone to buy something I’ve never used, and it doesn’t look like anyone is using Playbooks.

Source: Ars Technica

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