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RIM downgraded as $200 PlayBook vanishes

BlackBerry PlayBook

Last week, Canada’s Research in Motion cut the price on its low-end PlayBook tablet to just $200 for a limited time in an effort to woo Thanksgiving holiday shoppers to the device just as competitors like the Barnes & Noble Nook tablet and Kindle Fire went on sale. However, just as quickly as the $200 PlayBook appeared, it seems to be vanishing: retailers appear to be in the process of removing the $200 PlayBook devices from their online catalogs, and some Best Buy customers have reported their orders for the $200 tablets have been cancelled.

Complaints in Best Buy customer forums were first reported by Electronista. Quick checks of other retailers that had previously been offering the $200 tablets (Staples, Office Depot, Walmart, and RadioShack) finds the only $200 tablets listed as available are refurbished models.

The move could indicate that RIM’s idea of “a limited time only” was indeed just a period of a few days surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday, or that the $200 promotional price proved popular with consumers, even as the Kindle Fire hit the streets. If Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu has lowered his rating on RIM shares from “buy” to “neutral” and suspended his $31 target price for the company’s stock. He notes the company is facing serious competition from the likes of Samsung, Apple, Amazon, and HTC, and that significant service outages in October have damaged RIM with its bread-and-butter enterprise and government customers.

Wu took his critique a step further, saying he should have downgraded RIM’s stock back in October when it was trading for $24 a share. RIM’s stock price closed last week at $16. However, Wu did note that RIM has “intrinsic value,” including a large patent portfolio and 70 million subscribers, and declined to downgrade the stock to “underperform.”