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A sign advertising a Research In Motion's PlayBook tablet is seen in FairOaks Mall,Virginia April 19, 2011. (© Larry Downing / Reuters/REUTERS)
A sign advertising a Research In Motion's PlayBook tablet is seen in FairOaks Mall,Virginia April 19, 2011. (© Larry Downing / Reuters/REUTERS)

Retailers offering deep discounts on RIM's PlayBook Add to ...

Major Canadian retailers such as Best Buy Canada Ltd. and Sears Canada Inc. have slashed the cost of buying Research In Motion Ltd.’s PlayBook tablet by $300 in yet one more sign that RIM’s rival to Apple Inc.’s iPad is still not selling as well as the company and analysts first thought.

The across-the-board price cut – which brings the cost of the 16-gigabyte version of the Playbook down to only $200 from a previous price tag of $500 at Best Buy – follows a similar price cut implemented weeks earlier by wireless carriers Bell Mobility and SaskTel, which started discounting the PlayBook in late October.

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The PlayBook with 32 gigabytes of memory is now only $300, down from $600, at most retailers, while the 64-gigabyte version is down from $700 to only $400. Rogers Communications Inc., however, is still selling the PlayBook at its original price, with the lowest priced, 16-gigabyte model remaining at $500.

In an e-mailed statement to The Globe and Mail, RIM said the official retail price of the PlayBook remains unchanged, but that “RIM has various promotional plans in place with retail partners that are intended to help drive further sell-through of the BlackBerry PlayBook. A number of promotions will run during the holiday buying season and are being implemented in the form of instant rebates and gift cards within the consumer channel.”

Since the PlayBook launched in April, when analysts and critics said the device had been rushed to market prematurely, the tablet has failed to capture consumers’ imagination as it continues to lack some of the features – such as e-mail – that made RIM’s BlackBerry smartphone such a success among corporate clients.

The company also recently delayed a crucial software update to the PlayBook’s operating system that would allow the tablet to run a native e-mail application, calendar functions and other capabilities.

During the last quarter, which ended Aug. 27, RIM shipped only 200,000 tablets to its retail and wireless carrier partners. That figure is 60 per cent below the 500,000 PlayBooks that industry analysts had expected the company to ship during the quarter.

Although the company is relying on the BlackBerry’s success in emerging markets for revenue and profit growth, it’s become clear that the much talked-about transition to the company’s new BBX operating system has been a brutal one – especially in North America. The company’s stock price has tanked by more than 70 per cent.

Recent research reports also peg RIM’s market share in the United States, its most valuable market, at only 9 per cent, though executives blame that figure on the fact that large wireless carriers have only recently begun offering RIM’s newest smartphones.

Follow on Twitter: @iainmarlow

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