Canadian owners of Research In Motion Ltd.'s poor-selling PlayBook tablet now have access to a video store on the device, as the Waterloo, Ont.-based technology giant continues to tweak a product criticized for being launched prematurely.
On Wednesday, RIM announced that a video store previously available only in the United States was being brought to Canada. The video store is available to download for free in RIM's App World store, and allows users to rent or buy movies and TV shows.
The movies Red Tails and Sherlock Holmes: Games of Shadows, for example, were both available for download – at a cost of $4.99 to rent or $19.99 to buy.
The lack of a video library was one of the criticisms hurled at the PlayBook when RIM launched the device in April, 2011. It was widely perceived as being rushed to market in response to Apple Inc.'s hugely successful iPad, which has long featured video in its iTunes store and launched with an app for the popular online video-watching service Netflix.
But the PlayBook launched without e-mail, which seemed unusual for a company that rose to prominence by giving users efficient, wireless access to e-mail, and it also lacked a calendar. Compounding the problems, slow sales translated into a lack of enthusiasm from software developers to actually create applications, or apps, for the device. Long after launch the App Store still languishes in comparison to the offerings of Apple and the hundreds of thousands of apps on Google Inc.'s Android platform.
A software update in February, 2012, finally brought some critical functions to the PlayBook, but even after the device was heavily discounted – from about $500 down to $200 – its lacklustre sales continued as more and more tablets launched, including a new seven-inch tablet from Google.
A RIM spokesman said the new video store, which is only available in the U.S. and Canada, likely because of negotiations over digital rights to the content, gives users access to thousands of movies and TV shows. The videos can be watched on the PlayBook's screen, or the device can be hooked up to a TV via HDMI cable.
"With the Video Store, customers have the option of streaming a trailer before making a purchase decision, and can also begin watching media as soon as they start to download a file," RIM spokesman Nick Manning said.
In the most recently reported quarter, RIM said it shipped 260,000 PlayBook tablets out to retailers globally, though that number does not actually account for how many were bought. In contrast during Apple's most recent quarter, which it reported on Tuesday, the company sold 17 million iPads directly to consumers.