RIM Kills Off 16GB BlackBerry PlayBook

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RIM has discontinued the 16GB version of its PlayBook tablet, but remains committed to the tablet form factor

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion has axed the 16GB version of its PlayBook tablet.

The device currently sells for $200 (£130) at Best Buy in North America and elsewhere, while a 32GB version is priced at $250 (£163) and a 64GB version at $300 (£195).

Tablet Commitment

“We continue to remain committed to the tablet space, and the 32GB and 64GB models of the BlackBerry PlayBook continue to be available from our distributors and retailers around the world,” the company told Cnet in a statement.

RIM didn’t respond to an eWEEK request for additional comment.

The decision to discontinue its least-beefy tablet could be part of RIM’s efforts to slim down in a number of regards.

“RIM has a little fat on the hips and we need to be lean, mean,” CEO Thorsten Heins told the media during a 2 May meeting at RIM’s BlackBerry World 2012 show in Orlando.

Heins himself is part of RIM’s plan to trim down, as he replaced co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis in January. Soon afterward, Heins began the process of thinning down the rest of company’s management staff and reining in its to-do list.

“We believe that BlackBerry cannot succeed if we try to be everybody’s darling and all things to all people,” Heins said during a 29 March earnings call. While focusing on what RIM does best, it plans to better leverage relationships to address other areas.

“We will seek strong partnerships to deliver those consumer features and content that are not central to the BlackBerry value position,” Heins said, offering the example of applications for media consumption.

Future Focus

Heins went on to identify four strategic areas where RIM will focus its efforts. One of these was on improving efficiencies – and toward this end it’s rumoured that RIM plans to let go of several thousand more employees.

Another focus is on the successful launch of the BlackBerry 10 platform. While not arriving until the end of the year, the experience of the PlayBook 2.0 for now offers “a taste of what’s to come with BlackBerry 10,” Heins said during the call.

During RIM’s fiscal 2012, it shipped approximately 1.3 million PlayBooks. On 28 June, it will announce the results of its fiscal 2013 first quarter, which ended 2 June.

In a bit of inopportune timing, analysts expect RIM to finally introduce BlackBerry 10 in October, when Apple is likely to begin shipping its newest iPhone.

If the PlayBook offers a taste of BlackBerry 10, at BlackBerry World RIM offered a peek. During his keynote address, Heins was joined on stage by Vivek Bhardwaj, RIM’s head of software, who showed off, among other things, an improved keyboard that offers word suggestions over a user’s fingers as he or she types. A quick, upward swipe at the hovering word sent it up into the message. With time, the keyboard becomes tailored to the user.

The platform layout, calling Microsoft’s Windows Phone to mind, is based on tiles, or maybe playing cards. Bhardwaj showed off how all applications can be open at once. Instead of arranged in a dull grid, the open apps are stacked, in a way, letting a user swipe through the horizontal line of them, even seeing parts of three of them at once.

“Everything flows, no app stops, they layer and you can slide back and forth,” said Heins. “That is the power of BlackBerry 10 – no one else can do this.”

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