PlayBook price cut boosts sales of RIM’s tablet in Canada, iPad share dented

BlackBerry PlayBookWith Research In Motion having had a somewhat torrid time of it of late, executives at the company will be heartened to learn that its decision to cut the price of its beleaguered PlayBook tablet appears to have scored some gains in its home market.

The Globe and Mail reported Wednesday that RIM’s tablet, which launched in April last year, now has 15 percent of the Canadian market. That still may not sound like a lot, but it does mark an increase of 10 percent since last fall, and has also helped to dent the iPad’s share of the market in the country, down to 68 percent from 86 percent. Android-powered tablets will also account for some of that drop.

The report comes from the results of a survey of 1,000 Canadians by the Toronto-based Solutions Research Group (SRG), which reveal that RIM’s decision to slash the price of its tablet by hundreds of dollars late last year is paying dividends.

The lower prices for the various PlayBook models are still in place, with Best Buy Canada, for example, selling the 64GB version for $300. The 32GB is going for $250 while the 16GB one has a price tag of just $200. Consumers in the US can buy the PlayBook for the same prices from RIM’s online BlackBerry store.

While the figures look promising, the question is: Are the tablets being sold at a loss? If they are, then arguably the healthy sales are all for nothing, though RIM may simply be glad to see consumers sticking with its brand at a time when so many are switching to Apple and Android-powered devices.

RIM’s tablet was met with lukewarm reviews at launch and has struggled ever since, culminating in the company posting a $485-million pre-tax write-off due to unsold devices.

Many consumers were put off by the lack of available apps and the fact that the tablet shipped without native email and calendar applications, an issue that is expected to be rectified by an OS update later this month. PlayBook 2.0 is also expected to give RIM’s tablet the capability of running Android apps, which the company hopes will generate extra interest among consumers.

Discussing the results of the survey, SRG president Kaan Yigit told the Globe and Mail that while the 9.7-inch iPad is great for use around the home, it’s not “purse or jacket-pocket-friendly” like the 7-inch PlayBook. There was talk this week of Apple testing an 8-inch iPad, a rumor that RIM executives will be hoping stays as just that — a rumor.

Besides the iPad, the PlayBook’s main competitor is Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet, another device with a 7-inch screen. Thanks to its low price and the online giant’s extensive ecosystem, Amazon’s tablet has been a big hit with consumers.

Can RIM realistically make something of its PlayBook tablet? Or is it set to land up in the great bargain bin the sky?