RIM Struggles To Sell BlackBerry PlayBooks

RIM is introducing sales promotions for its BlackBerry PlayBook tablet to boost it in the business market

Research In Motion is offering its business customers three BlackBerry PlayBook tablets for the price of two, as it tries to spur adoption of its QNX-based tablet.

RIM certainly faces an uphill battle when it comes to tablets. Apple’s iPad dominates the space, in terms of market share, and a variety of Google Android devices continue to trickle onto store shelves. By the end of 2012, Microsoft’s Windows 8 will most likely begin appearing on tablets, creating a new competitive wrinkle in the process.

Motorola Xoom

RIM isn’t the only company struggling up that slope. In the third quarter, Motorola Mobility reported sales of some 100,000 Motorola Xoom tablets, not exactly the greatest result for a device initially positioned as an iPad killer.

But RIM faces a host of issues beyond anemic tablet sales. Global outages earlier in October left some BlackBerry users without services for days, leading to class-action lawsuits filed this week in California and Canada. In addition, RIM has racked up noticeable revenue declines on its balance sheets, as the company wrestles to transition from its current BlackBerry devices to new QNX-powered “superphones” due sometime in the next few quarters.

As part of its general “refresh”, RIM plans on delivering a long-awaited software update to the PlayBook in February 2012. In a 25 October posting on the official BlackBerry blog, David Smith, RIM’s senior vice president of BlackBerry PlayBook, described the decision to wait that long on the PlayBook OS 2.0 launch as a “difficult” one, driven by a need to be “confident we have fully met the expectations of our developers, enterprise customers and end users”.

The update will add integrated email, a “new video store”, calendar and contact applications, and better tethering between a tablet and a user’s BlackBerry. On the enterprise side of things, RIM is apparently tweaking the PlayBook’s manageability options and enterprise application deployment. The updated software will also include a separate area within BlackBerry App World for enterprise applications.

Will PlayBook sales promotions, combined with upgraded software, improve the tablet’s market presence? RIM must hope so – but with Apple and Google buttressing their respective mobile software’s enterprise capability, and Microsoft prepping its big tablet play, that hill is looking very steep indeed.