Exclusive: Distributors clear out of RIM's PlayBook in the UK; is a new tablet in the works?

by Doug Drinkwater

October 11 2012

RIM's PlayBook has been the subject of a number of price-cuts in recent times
RIM's PlayBook has been the subject of a number of price-cuts in recent times

Days after it emerged that U.S. retailers are running out of BlackBerry PlayBook tablets, fresh information reveals that UK distributors are clearing out RIM's tablet as well.

Context mobile analyst Salman Chaudhry told TabTimes his firm has seen ‘record sales’ of the PlayBook this quarter, with one ‘pretty big’ UK distributor having run out of all stock.

Chaudhry said that PlayBook sales into the UK channel rose from an average of 1,000 a month last year to 5,000 per month in February, when the tablet was first heavily discounted. Context then saw sales drop to just 739 in July, before rising to 34,729 in August and 60,390 in September.

“Across Europe in September they did really well and were the number three vendor [in the tablet market]”, Chaudhry told TabTimes. “In the UK by OS, they even sold more PlayBooks into the channel than iOS devices.”

Despite RIM’s insistence that the U.S. stock issue was down to holiday season sales, Chaudhry remains unconvinced.

“It’s a clear out at flash sale pricing. RIM is getting rid of the rest of stock and the general rule in the industry is if one distributor handles the sale of one stock it means that it’s being cleared rather than it’s on promotion.”

We reached out to RIM for an official comment on the matter and asked if this was a part of the PlayBook being phased out. The firm responded by saying that it does not comment on speculation around its products.

Chaudhry’s comments were further backed up by UK distributor Ingram Micro which, while refusing to say that it no longer stocking the PlayBook, said that its relationship with RIM is ‘ongoing’.

The PlayBook is also listed as being out of stock on Stock in The Channel, a website which tracks products stocked by 90 UK distributors.

NPD DisplaySearch analyst Stephen Baker reckons distributors and retailers will eventually come to stop stocking the PlayBook.

“Given the age of the product and the current alternatives I can’t see anyone continuing to stock it in store. Until something new comes out I think it has effectively been discontinued by retail, even if RIM hasn’t killed it.”

Whether or not this heralds a new PlayBook is yet to be seen, although a recently leaked roadmap includes the new 4G PlayBook and did hint at a larger tablet in Q3 of 2013.

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