RIM recently announced $200 price cut on Blackberry Playbook and now the 16GB model is priced at $299, and 32GB model is at $399, but it seems the price cut is not for 64GB model and it is at $699. The statistics say that RIM has only sold about 200,000 devices throughout the world since its beginning in Spring 2011. There are so many factors that this model has not taken well in the market. I have seen people who are so into Blackberry phones using iPads and few with Android tablets mostly ASUS Transformer, Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 or XOOM but not the Playbook.
There are so many reasons why the Playbook was not able to tap into the existing Blackberry ecosystem, IMO. I will try to outline the reasons I think here:
1. Deeply tied with Blackberry phones: In order to check emails and calendar, you have to have Blackberry phone and you can’t really use Playbook as a standalone device. I think this basically issue with BES system and how it recognizes a user with the phone number. This can be easily fixed, by modifying the underlying user recognition not based on user not phone like rest of the tablets do. I may be wrong, but I really didn’t understand the original design philosophy behind the current mess. Because of this anyone who doesn’t have a Blackberry phone never really looked into Playbook.
2. Form factor: If you look into the sales of tablets, most of the sales are for the tablets that are above 9” form factor. Of course the 7” form factors are also doing great, but the market leader iPad already set a trend for 9” form factor. If someone is really looking for 7” form factor there are so many other options available at a better price and better ecosystem.
3 Ecosystem: A lot of Tablet buyers are looking for content, and thanks Apple because they created this too. Otherwise Windows Tablets would have been sold to consumers and it could have been a king by now. Playbook has a very limited ecosystem which is almost to nil, and RIM actually never really thought about it like HP did with their Touchpad. Both tablets are powered by very good platform QNX and WebOS respectively, but never had any ecosystem that comprises the content (major part) and compelling apps (minor part).
4. User Experience: User Experience and for that matter on Android systems is poorly designed. On Playbook you have to learn the swipes in order to go back to home screen from an app. And also the touch response sometimes is not that great. If one sees the touch response on iPhone/iPad and Windows Phone 7, they expect similar experience and fluidity in scrolling, gesture recognition. There is good room for improvement in Playbooks in this area. The interaction with system makes you to learn the stuff before playing with Playbook. Touchpad has better User Experience than Playbook and even Android also has better UX than Playbook definitely.
5. Price: Price also played a major role. Apple with its long term agreements with suppliers made it to get iPad parts for cheaper prices and $499 for the entry level iPad became the standard. For a 7” tablet with almost nil ecosystem and poor experience, the price is not justified when compared with entry level iPad.
Now with Amazon entering the 7” tablet arena with its own and with its vast ecosystem comparable to Apple’s and Microsoft’s, RIM should make ties up with content providers and should keep the prices of the Playbook to be lower at the current offering, it could pull Blackberry users to get into this tablet. Running few Android apps to run on Playbook platform is not sufficient. RIM also accepted that running some of the Android apps is not possible. (via ZDNET).
In my opinion, RIM got distracted with maintaining two platforms Blackberry Phones and Playbooks. Microsoft can afford that strategy because it is a software powerhouse, but not companies like RIM and Nokia in this fast paced mobile platform market. Nokia is trying to correct this with outsourcing its platform to Microsoft. RIM should follow Nokia or learn from Apple to make it as a single platform, if it wants to retain to its bundled strategy, i.e. single platform for both phones and tablets.
RIM has a long road ahead, it is losing its strong base of enterprise market to both Apple and Google at a faster pace and now Amazon entering the low end tablet market with its Kindle Fire and Microsoft’s announcement of Windows 8 Developer Preview makes its very tough. Windows 8 unifies both Desktop and devices such as Phones and Tablets into single ecosystem. RIM should learn from both Nokia and HP and correct its strategy and roadmap in order to survive in this competitive market.