BlackBerry Playbook dropped by Sprint, abandoned in U.S. market (updated)

Sprint gives RIM's BlackBerry Playbook the old heave-ho before the 4G version even got in the mobile provider's stores.

Research In Motion can't catch a break. The BlackBerry PlayBook, which has already suffered dismal reviews since it debuted in April, has the 4G-enabled version been dropped by Sprint.

The nation's third largest wireless provider was lined up to be the sole retailer offering and enabling the 4G edition of RIM's foray into the tablet market as both AT&T and Verizon Wireless passed.

Now that Sprint is out of the picture, the PlayBook has been all but abandoned and isolated in the United States to just a Wi-Fi-only device for the time being.

It's not terribly hard to figure out why Sprint has nixed its PlayBook plans considering the device has not gotten much favorable attention. Thus, why would Sprint want to even bother with this at all if it just ends up costing them money on marketing and more that it couldn't recuperate?

Paget Alves, president of Sprint’s business markets group, gave a more diplomatic response to The Wall Street Journal:

It’s an interesting concept, it just hasn’t caught on with business customers as much as they would like. There are so many tablets in the market, it creates confusion for the average customer.

However, the Wi-Fi edition is still available to purchase from Sprint online as of 12:30 PM PT.

The PlayBook has also been plagued with other problems as of late, including miscommunication about software updates and delayed support for Android apps.

Although 3G and 4G connectivity is not absolutely essential to a tablet as many consumers are just fine with a Wi-Fi-only version, this does set RIM even farther back with any sales goals it might have had left for the PlayBook. Maybe it's time to just give up on this device and work on something new, whether it be a better tablet or other smartphones.

Hopefully the PlayBook's fate won't be the same for the HP TouchPad, which has met a similar cool reception from critics and customers to the point where HP has had to drop $200 off the base price tag. The 4G-enabled TouchPad is expected to roll out on AT&T's network "in time for back to school" season...which is just about now.

UPDATE: RIM Media Relations has sent us the following response:

RIM has decided to prioritize and focus its 4G development resources on LTE. We remain excited and committed to delivering innovative and powerful 4G tablets to the US market together with our carrier partners. Testing of BlackBerry 4G PlayBook models is already underway and we plan to enter labs for network certifications in the US and other international markets this fall.