Amazon's Kindle Fire could be death blow to RIM's PlayBook

Amazon's Kindle tablet reportedly resembles the PlayBook and that's bad news for RIM.

What if you could have Research in Motion's PlayBook with different software and better content connections? And what if this tablet was cheaper than the PlayBook by a wide margin?

Those questions must be downright haunting to RIM executives right now. MG Siegler at TechCrunch says the Kindle tablet name is Fire, but the more interesting item is that Amazon's device looks a lot like the PlayBook. According to Ryan Block at GDGT, the Kindle tablet is a PlayBook made by Quanta.

RIM's PlayBook has decent hardware. What it doesn't have is apps and native email/calendar---at least yet. The PlayBook also doesn't have much in the way of sales either---200,000 units in the last quarter or half of what was expected.

I can see RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie sweating now as he mumbles about QNX being the future.

The PlayBook deathblow comes when Amazon prices this Kindle tablet. If the Fire comes in at $250, RIM will have to match and probably go lower. Sure you could argue that QNX is way better than what Amazon's version of Android can do, but few shoppers are going to care. RIM could find itself saddled with a ton of PlayBooks if it's not careful.

If this Amazon launch plays out the way it's expected, RIM is in trouble with the PlayBook. The ledger looks like this:

  • RIM and Amazon hardware would be roughly equal.
  • QNX vs. Android 2.1 advantage to RIM.
  • Movies, e-books, apps, TV, music integration goes to Amazon.
  • Overall advantage goes to Amazon because no Prime subscriber is going to care. And by the way no consumer at Best Buy will care either.

RIM needs to step it up with PlayBook 2.0 in a hurry. The Amazon impact on RIM is huge. If RIM's QNX update in mid-October doesn't wow the masses it's going to look like Android 2.1 is better. That perception will taint QNX, which is the linchpin of RIM's superphone strategy.