Retailers Prep BlackBerry PlayBook For $199 Holiday Fire Sale

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Blackberry PlayBook (Photo by clintonjeff - http://flic.kr/p/9HDmuJ)
Blackberry PlayBook (Photo by clintonjeff - http://flic.kr/p/9HDmuJ)

Retailers have found getting rid of non-iPad tablets can be like selling Halloween candy in November. Retail giant Staples is taking a cue from other failed attempts to rival the Apple device and cutting up to $300 off RIM’s PlayBook,  just in time for Christmas.


The fire sale, to start Friday at the Canada Staples (RIM’s home turf), will trim PlayBook prices to $199 for the 16GB model, $299 for the 32GB model and $399 for the 64GB version. The Canadian Staples prices could become permanent on November 18th with U.S. locations offering the 16GB PlayBook for $199 a week later, on Black Friday.

The drastic cuts aren’t unexpected. RIM announced it sold just 200,000 PlayBook tablets during the last quarter, below analyst expectations of at least double that figure. In September, electronics giant Best Buy tried to goose PlayBook sales by cutting $150 from the 64GB version and $50 from the 16GB and 32GB models.

The fire sale route has worked before for HP, maker of the ill-fated TouchPad tablet. After sales immediately fell like a rock, HP sliced $100 from the unit price. However, demand really didn’t pick up until the company killed its tablet, announcing a $100 million write-off on the whole failure – and slapping a $99 on the high-tech paper weight.

Remember the Xoom from Motorola? Yeah, it too was just so much fodder for the iPad. The company said it sold only 100,000 of the devices in the third quarter, taking a $32 million bath.

Obviously, Amazon never heard of the three-strikes-and-you’re-out rule. Its Kindle Fire, which uses hardware from the same suppliers that built the RIM PlayBook, seems to have struck a positive chord with early reviewers. While other attempts have been crushed by producing a tablet less-expensively than the iPad but with similar features, Amazon hasn’t gone down that rocky road.

Instead, the Kindle Fire offers a 7-inch screen and relies heavily on the cloud to reduce costs. Neither is the tablet a feature-for-feature clone of the iPad, but borrows some of Apple’s tight-integration ecosystem thinking. Tightly woven into the Kindle Fire is Amazon’s cloud storage service (ala iCloud?), Kindle Books (ala iBooks), Amazon MP3 service (ala iTunes) and more. Add in the $199 price tag and you don’t have a tablet trying to out iPad the iPad, but a device making a niche that can actually compete with the Apple device.

Chances are, we won’t see a Kindle Fire in the discount bin anytime soon.