A little over a week has passed since RIM released the PlayBook, its debut tablet device, in Thailand on Jul. 22.
BlackBerry enjoys great strength in Thailand's smartphone market. Its success over the last two years seem to have coincided with (or stimulated, depending on your opinion) the country's interest in smartphones, apps, mobile instant messaging, mobile internet and social media--Facebook alone is a key driver of first time smartphone buys.
If BlackBerry seized the potential of the market and gained smartphone market dominance through first mover advantage, what then is in store for the PlayBook which is a latecomer to a market that has much potential but fierce competition.
BlackBerry devices are, for now, the most popular choice for smartphone users in Thailand, thanks primarily to their affordability (the budget device is around a quarter of the price of an iPhone) and the strong brand which RIM has developed using celebrities and other famous figures to generate interest and market desire.
The strong brand name is helping RIM fight the new(ish) threat of "affordable devices" from a whole host of Android-based smartphone manufacturers such as Spriiing Telecom--but, on the tablet side of things, RIM's position is far from clear.
Apple have found a strong position in Thailand since the release of the first generation iPad last year, while--like the iPhone--the iPad 1 and 2 have developed a niche and popularity among those seeking the best technology, while Android-powered tablets like the Samsung Galaxy series have seen success as the more affordable option.
Where will the PlayBook sit?
Price-wise, the PlayBook level pegging with Apple as the comparison below demonstrates (Apple iPad 2 price is for Wi-Fi model, given that the PlayBook itself is Wi-Fi only, and comes from Richard Barrow's excellent iPhone Thailand blog).
- 16GB: iPad 2 (15,900THB) Playbook (16,990THB)
- 32GB: iPad 2 (18,900THB) Playbook (18,990THB)
- 64GB: iPad 2 (21,900THB) Playbook (21,990THB)
Taking on the iPad squarely is no easy task, given that Apple's device pioneered and practically invented the consumer tablet PC phenomenon, and bearing in mind the brand and reputation that Apple enjoys worldwide.
So can the PlayBook take down the champ and find success in Thailand?
I'm betting against it.
BlackBerry smartphones found success in Thailand at a time when Apple's presence was far less significant than it is now, though the majority of its users find the affordability of BlackBerry smartphones a key reason for purchase and use.
These advantages do not apply to the PlayBook which will need to make a huge impact if it is to challenge the iPad and the many Android-based devices for a slice of what could become a lucrative market here in Thailand.
Despite RIM's undoubted success in Thailand, I remain unconvinced that this can be done.
The unboxing video below shows exactly what Thai consumers can expect from BlackBerry's tablet device.