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Mike Lazaridis, president and co-chief executive officer of Research In Motion, with a PlayBook tablet. (ROBERT GALBRAITH/REUTERS)
Mike Lazaridis, president and co-chief executive officer of Research In Motion, with a PlayBook tablet. (ROBERT GALBRAITH/REUTERS)

RIM denies reports of plan to discontinue WiFi PlayBook Add to ...

Research In Motion moved to counter a report claiming it is poised to discontinue the original PlayBook tablet just three months after launch, calling it "pure fiction."

Investment research firm OTR Global issued a report on Monday claiming Research In Motion Ltd. would soon discontinue the WiFi-only version of the PlayBook tablet, as it prepares to launch a cellular-equipped version of the device in the coming months.

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The report caught many observers' attention after an analyst issued a note about it. Within a few hours, there were several stories about the rumour on blogs and news outlets.

But by Monday afternoon, RIM countered the reports, saying it had no plans to discontinue production of the tablet.

"Over the past month, the PlayBook has launched in 16 additional markets around the world and further rollouts are planned for Southeast Asia, Western Europe and the Middle East in the coming weeks," the company said in a statement.

RIM was widely criticized in April for what was seen as a rushed launch of the WiFi PlayBook. Although the company moved quickly to update the product, initial models came with some glitches, and the lack of built-in e-mail, calendars and other services was seen as a significant flaw (e-mail and other tools are only available on the Wi-Fi PlayBook when it is tethered to a BlackBerry). With several more months of refinement, a cellular-equipped model would solve many, if not all, of those problems.

Carriers are also more likely to support cellular-equipped tablets because, unlike with WiFi-only devices, they can generate income in the form of monthly data plans.

But many consumers are more likely to buy a Wi-Fi-only model because they tend to cost less than cellular-equipped tablets. In addition, cellular data plans can quickly become expensive if a consumer uses a tablet to download large applications or watch video on-line. Deloitte technology analyst Duncan Stewart says his research shows between 60 and 80 per cent of tablets sold are WiFi-only, and so it would make little sense for RIM to discontinue production of the WiFi PlayBook.

"I could see them slowing manufacture of Wi-Fi-only and pushing hard on 3G/4G development and production … but that's only a temporary thing, and not the end of the product," he said.

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