RIM's PlayBook: Early read is that it's selling say analysts

With Research in Motion's BlackBerry World kicking off---and a new BlackBerry Bold with touch---all eyes remain on the PlayBook and whether the company's savior tablet will sell.

With Research in Motion's BlackBerry World kicking off---and a new BlackBerry Bold with touch---all eyes remain on the PlayBook and whether the company's savior tablet will sell.

RIM is in the doghouse with Wall Street after cutting its earnings outlook. Meanwhile, RIM management is a bit short on credibility today. However, RIM's future still rests with its QNX-powered PlayBook.

Related: RIM announces BlackBerry Bold 9900, aka Bold Touch

CIBC analyst Todd Coupland set out to see how PlayBook sales were doing. The data is a bit thin, but Coupland checked in with 101 retailers in the U.S. and 27 in Canada between April 25 and April 27. What Coupland found is similar to what I found at my local Best Buy: PlayBook isn't the iPad 2 in terms of interest, but RIM's tablet is No. 2 in the interest department. Meanwhile, Best Buy reps appear to be knowledgeable about the PlayBook and giving it more of a push than its neighboring Android tablets.

Coupland's channel checks lead him to an expectation that RIM will sell 400,000 PlayBooks in the six weeks of the May quarter. That tally is 100,000 better than consensus estimates. Coupland said that enterprise sales will drive the PlayBook's launch, but retail sales will move about three devices a store to bring the tablet to the 400,000 sold mark.

The CIBC analyst writes:

The technology blogosphere has had a field day with their perception of RIM’s “lack of innovation”. Images of Mike Lazaridis holding a touch screen Curve and a presentation on an O/S update that does not involve QNX can hardly be seen as thrilling. These same thoughts have helped keep RIM’s EPS multiple depressed at 6.4x (or 6.6x consensus) this year’s earnings ex-cash versus Nokia at 10x ex-cash, Apple at 11x ex-cash, Motorola next year at 13x ex-cash and HTC this year at 15x excash. To add insult on top of injury, the Q1 profit warning affirms to many RIM’s discounted valuation. With that backdrop, it is our view that even a moderately successful launch of the Playbook would help improve RIM’s earnings multiple more than anything that could happen at Capital Markets Day. To get a better understanding of what is happening, we undertook an informal survey that sampled the 15,000 retail outlets that RIM announced as carrying the Playbook and have concluded that a solid launch appears to be benefiting from very positive in store product reviews.

The takeaways from Coupland's report:

  • Sales reps were knowledgeable about the PlayBook and could even explain BlackBerry Bridge well.
  • These reps were recommending the tablet---especially if you had a BlackBerry.
  • Speed and better browsing were the big selling points. Flash support was also touted.
  • The fact Samsung's Galaxy Tab required a contract turned customers off.
  • Best Buy and Staples are focusing on selling the 16GB PlayBook.
  • Office Depot consistently sold the 32GB and 64GB versions.
  • Canadian outlets have indicated PlayBook sales were strong. One FutureShop in Toronto was selling about 1- a day.

If you dig down to Coupland's granular data it appears that it's feast or famine with the PlayBook. Some outlets couldn't sell any, but others noted the PlayBook was selling well. The Best Buy comments appear to be the most constructive toward the PlayBook.



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