BlackBerry PlayBook shipments are down as RIM's tablet turns 'sideshow'

How the tablet market remains tough - unless you're selling iPads...
Written by Natasha Lomas, Contributor

How the tablet market remains tough - unless you're selling iPads...

BlackBerry PlayBook

RIM shipped fewer BlackBerry PlayBooks in Q2 than the previous quarterPhoto: Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

RIM's hopes of challenging Apple's iPad in the tablet market look to be fading fast.

Reporting financial results for its second quarter, the BlackBerry maker revealed it shipped 200,000 BlackBerry PlayBook tablets in the second quarter of its financial year. Shipments in the previous quarter, when the device launched in the US, stood at 500,000.

Shipments do not equal sales so it's unclear exactly how many PlayBooks are in customers' hands, and how many remain on shop shelves and in store rooms.

But it's a different story for Apple's iPad, which continues to fly off the shelves. The company sold 9.25 million iPads during its third quarter this year, and 4.69 million iPads during its second quarter.

Apple's share of the worldwide media tablet market reached 68.3 per cent in the second quarter of this year, according to analyst house IDC, up from 65.7 per cent in the previous quarter.

Apple's grip on the UK tablet market is even greater, according to Kantar Worldpanel ComTech which tracks tablet sales. Its research shows the iPad accounting for a whopping 73 per cent of all UK tablet sales.

Apple iPad squeezing other tablets out

RIM is by no means the only tablet maker struggling to get a toehold in the tablet market.

HP's decision to kill its own iPad challenger, the TouchPad, earlier this year - just months after the slate had launched - underlines how tough Apple's rivals are finding it.

Electronics maker Sharp is the latest tablet rival to exit left - announcing yesterday it is pulling the plug on its Galapagos tablet, less than a year after its debut.

Samsung, maker of the Galaxy Tab range of Android-powered tablets, appears to have gained more traction than most iPad rivals - reporting shipments of two million Tabs at the start of this year, although it is unclear how many it has actually sold.

RIM's problems are bigger than the PlayBook

As for RIM, the company has far larger concerns than trying to knock the iPad off its perch.

Work is ongoing in Waterloo to update the OS of its BlackBerry smartphones. The legacy BlackBerry OS has struggled to keep pace with rival platforms such as iOS and Android - and RIM's delay in transitioning to a next-generation OS is hitting its bottom line.

The company reported revenue for the second quarter of $4.2bn, down 15 per cent from the previous quarter and down 10 per cent from the same quarter of last year. It recently released a swathe of new BlackBerrys - but none of these new handsets runs QNX: the software that will power RIM's next-generation smartphones.

For this reason, independent telecoms analyst Ian Fogg describes the PlayBook as a "sideshow". "PlayBook is a product/revenue diversification initiative," he told silicon.com. "It's a sideshow for RIM's future."

The work RIM really needs to get on with is transitioning its smartphones to QNX.

But there the tablet may have something to offer after all: PlayBook is playing a role because it's RIM's first QNX-powered device. Any R&D work RIM does for PlayBook should therefore help the company deliver QNX-based BlackBerrys, Fogg added.

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