BlackBerry PlayBook prices hit rock bottom


news Online retailers have started heavily discounting Research in Motion’s BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, taking up to two thirds off the unpopular tablet’s price a year after it launched in Australia to a lack interest from local consumers and business customers.

Featuring a 1GHz dual-core processor, 1GB RAM and up to 64GB internal storage, the PlayBook had similar specifications to a number of other tablets available and launching in the Australian market when it launched locally in June last year. It featured a 7″ touchscreen, smaller than the 10″ screens used by Apple’s market dominating iPad and most Android tablets, but the same size as Google’s popular Nexus 7 tablet and Amazon’s similarly popular Kindle Fire model.

At the time, the tablet received a great deal of support from RIM in Australia, with the tablet to launch through all of Australia’s major mobile carriers as well as retailer Harvey Norman in three different models. The PlayBook was selling locally for prices starting from $579 for the entry level model, although it was typically bundled into mobile phone plans with BlackBerry handsets.
However, since that time the PlayBook failed to make a mark on the Australian market, and retailers have started discounting it dramatically. Today, for example, online retailer Unique Mobiles put a batch of PlayBooks up for sale for $179, including free delivery — a discount of 70 percent off the price of the tablets when they launched locally a year ago. This discount was first reported by Gizmodo.

The models are brand new — factory sealed — and come with a warranty, but even the retailer’s normal non-sale PlayBook prices are low — just $225.

Delimiter’s review of the PlayBook found that the tablet had solid hardware but was let down by its undeveloped software, with Research in Motion’s QNX operating system unable to support accessing email natively and lacking core third-party applications such as Twitter, DropBox, Amazon Kindle or Skype which are commonly used on Apple’s iPad and other popular tablet models.

Delimiter reviewer Jenneth Orantia wrote at the time: “RIM has promised updates this year that will add native email and PIM apps, as well as a unique Android “app player” that that will enable the PlayBook to run Android 2.3 apps released through BlackBerry App World in a virtual run-time environment. If RIM had offered these features from the start, we could’ve been looking at a homerun for the PlayBook. As it stands, however, it’s simply a tablet with a lot of potential, and unfortunately for RIM, potential doesn’t sell nearly as well as an Apple logo. Using the PlayBook is like driving a swanky sportscar that can only travel a couple of blocks. Impressive, yes, but too limited to be useful.”

The new discounts on the PlayBook are not the first to be levied on the tablet over the past year. In December, for example, Optus announced attractive deals with the release of the BlackBerry Torch 9860 that saw customers buying the smartphone on the $49 Optus cap (or above) receive a free PlayBook.

In the week before the deal, RIM in the US announced a write-down of the cost of the 16GB PlayBook to US$199. Locally, however, RIM’s then-Australian chief Adele Beachley stated (according to ZDNet) that Research in Motion would rather offer deals on the PlayBook to boost flagging sales, than reduce the local recommended retail price.

In Australia, research shows that Apple’s iPad continues to overwhelmingly dominate the local tablet market. Research published by analyst house Telsyte in February revealed that Apple sold about one million iPads in Australia in 2011, representing around 76 percent of the total local market for the new burgeoning tablet category. Other estimates have placed Apple’s market share as high as 80 or even 90 percent, with other players using the such as Samsung, Acer, Toshiba, Motorola and others failing to make much of a dint in Apple’s local market share despite launching around a dozen new tablets in Australia over the past several years. Earlier research published in December 2011 by IDC also showed Android tablet growth slowing.

The PlayBook is not the only tablet to flop and have its price severely marked down in Australia. In August 2011, for example, retail giant Harvey Norman dramatically slashed prices on HP’s discontinued TouchPad tablet from $499 to $99 for the 16GB model, and from $599 to $148 for the 32GB model, mimicking a global liquidation of the limited remaining stock of the device after HP sealed the line’s fate and instantly creating huge demand for the TouchPads in Australia.

It seems pretty clear at this point that the PlayBook has failed in Australia. The only real question is how widespread this kind of discounting behaviour is, and how cheap the tablet will get before stocks run out. In hindsight, it may not have been a fantastic idea for Research in Motion to launch a tablet without email support. Supporting email has kind of been the company’s core mission over the years. We’re sure Apple laughed pretty heavily about that one.

Image credit: Research in Motion


  1. I would say that the Playbook has the best interface of any tablet system out there today. Miles ahead of android and even iOS. The only one that comes close would be WebOS, if HP ever pulls it out of retirement and puts it to good use.

  2. So true all the shortcomings have been address, its potable still powerfull and relevant spec wise and the tablet will be getting the new the new BB10 os by the first quater of 2013

  3. This is shoddy reporting since the Playbook has had native email support since February 2012.

    I bought an iPad 1 when it was first released, and enjoyed it until installing iOS 5. As is often the case with Apple, the older models become inferior and nearly unusable when new operating systems are installed. And in the case of the iPad/iPhone, you cannot downgrade your operating system without jailbreaking it.

    For the above reason, I recently picked up a discounted Playbook, and have been surprised by how much I am enjoying it. The interface for switching between apps is much better than with Apple products, and the integrated email appl(which includes email, facebook, twitter, and LinkedIn) is also a welcome improvement over the iPad/iPhone. And browsing the web with a tablet is now enjoyable again. For the price, it’s definitely worth it.

  4. People need to do their homework before mouthing off popular notions of a device especially the author of articles like this.
    Price / features = an unbeatable deal
    RIM playbook OS= AWESOME
    RIM hardware = AWESOME
    RIM apps getting better by the day

    I use this tablet nonstop at work, at home with the kids, on the road.
    Stereo speakers AWESOME
    Flash AWESOME
    Cameras front and rear ohh…. and I don’t feel stupid taking pictures with a 7″ tab either.
    I can carry everywhere when I’m at work. Everywhere!

  5. i 100% agree with JW’s comment. i have been using playbook for.. yeah.. A YEAR now. i used to be let down with its limitations on the previous OS 1.0 but since the launch of OS 2.0 and now i’m running the beta OS 2.1, yeah.. this is the WORLD’s ONLY PROFESSIONAL GRADE TABLET. PERIOD. i’ve seen people successfully ported out a N64 game to the playbook, i’ve seen people sucessfully installed & booted the DOS on the playbook and even this tablet is the first tablet to acquire security approvals to be used within the governmental & defence environment. the OS is also powerful with a powerful battery life as well. having this as a discounted tablet, it is a seriously good deal to consider.

    HAPPY 1st ANNIVERSARY my playbook, you’re 1 year old now but yeah, you’re still standing strong! HAIL QNX Neutrino, HAIL BB10!

  6. I bought a playbook for $150 a month or two ago, because at that price it’s the best-value tablet around. I already have an ipad (and spend a lot of time on android), so I’ve been doing a lot of comparing.

    -I love how playbook OS handles multitasking, and the OS as a whole is simple and smooth and user-friendly.
    -The hardware is quite powerful, and you get good battery life.
    -The Browser, which is where I spend a tonne of time anyway, is on a par with other tablets (and far better than blackberry phone browsers)
    -It’s a bit chunky nowadays. it’s uncomfortable in my pants pocket – if it was a bit thinner or had a little less bezel, it’d be perfect.
    -The apps could use work. there’s less high-quality apps on the main store than I’d like, and side-loading android apps isn’t the most user friendly experience around yet. Fixing one or the other of those would improve things.

    All in all, I’m surprised how badly it did. The lack of native email/calendaring at the start mean they were treating it as an accessory to your blackberry phone, and by the time that was fixed they’d lost momentum. As it stands now it’s a solid tablet that you can pick up for a bargain, much like the touchpad was.

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