Reports have been circulating since the beginning of the day that Best Buy is preparing to discontinue sales of RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. At the time of this report, the only listings available all report the tablet being unavailable for online purchase and in-store pickup in all configurations, where previously the tablet listings were completely absent from the online store.
To add to the confirmation, Best Buy’s own forums have also been flooded with multiple reports confirming refunds for those that attempted to order the PlayBook during the Black Friday rush at Best Buy’s heavily discounted pricing of $300 off MSRP and that some stores have canceled all incoming store pickup orders while issuing refunds.
Calls to Best Buy inquiring about the situation have yielded little in the way of information, with store reps and management refusing to answer questions regarding immediate PlayBook availability or reports of store pickup order cancellations.
When inquiring about why orders are suddenly being canceled, some customers are also being told that Best Buy’s supply of tablets is “overextended” and is forcing the company to issue cancellations and refunds due to the unexpected demand, in a mirror image reminiscent of the August HP TouchPad weekend firesale.
Other RIM PlayBook resellers, such as Staples and Office Depot are reporting they have very limited stock on hand of the tablet and are not planning to restock once the stock on hand is sold through.
Update: Best Buy has issued statements to CNET and Â PhoneNews.com confirming that the retailer is completely sold out of PlayBook tablets at this time, but will restock in time for Christmas for both online and in-store sales. Â The original article follows at the continue reading link.
For its part, RIM has taken to imitating HP and started its own internal fire sale for the beleaguered tablet with the following internal pricing schedule exclusively for its employees atÂ $100 for the 16GB edition, $150 for the 32GB, and $200 for the 64GB model.
Should the pricing report be confirmed, this means that RIM is taking the first steps to clear out the distribution channel of the tablet and is either attempting to discontinue the tablet and exit the market or is planning another model following a September report stating that RIM was planning to discontinue the tablet, which RIM quickly denied at the time and reiterated its support for the device.
The PlayBook tablet was originally launched in April of this year and was meant as a companion to select BlackBerry smartphones, with the tablet using the BlackBerry device as a passthrough dongle for everything from email, internet access and PIM functionality. which made it less functional than the equivalent Android or iPad tablet. Planned 4G and cellular data versions of the tablet are also in limbo or canceled outright, such as the Sprint WiMax version and the AT&T HSPA versions previously announced for release earlier this year.
Developer support for the PlayBook is also another point of contention, as developers continually become frustrated with the lack of updated tools and access to better APIs necessary in order to get the most out of the hardware to develop applications. The developer pricing may be a way for developers to adopt the platform, although it may be too late.
The tablet is also criticized for lacking a built-in email client amongst other applications considered necessary for proper standalone operation. As it stands, RIM has also yet to release long-promised updates to the tablet that would enable it to use Android applications via emulator as well as further developer updates to deploy native development tools besides the current Flash/Flex/AIR toolset, both of which were expected in late September and have yet to be rolled out despite multiple confirmations of its imminent release as well as updates that include a native email client and more standalone functionality.