Research in Motion will reportedly sell its PlayBook for "under" $500 in a bid to take on Apple's iPad. That price is simply admission for getting into the tablet game. The big question is whether Adobe's Flash platform will be a differentiator.
In a Bloomberg interview, RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie said the PlayBook will be sold for less than $500. RIM's tablet will launch in the first quarter.
Let's address the pricing part of the PlayBook equation first. That pricing news is nice, but let's put it into perspective. Any tablet that doesn't start at $499 is doomed. I've been pretty vocal that Android tablets need to sell at a discount---especially with 7-inch screens. RIM, which will sell the PlayBook as an enterprise device, may have more leeway on pricing, but not much. After all, RIM's PlayBook has a 7-inch screen.
John Gruber at Daring Fireball goes into the Apple pricing advantage more. In a nutshell, Apple's pricing ability comes from buying vast quantities of flash memory. RIM can't hang with that pricing power either, but may accept slim margins just to get into the tablet race. Simply put, RIM has to protect its enterprise market share.
The far more interesting item is whether the Playbook makes---or breaks---Adobe's plans for Flash.
From what we've heard, RIM's Playbook is essentially a vessel for Adobe's platform---Flash and AIR. RIM will rely heavily on Adobe's software to deliver apps and other platforms. Without Flash, RIM's Playbook might as well be a Frisbee.
The downside to this equation, however, is this: If the Flash implementation on the Playbook is botched by RIM, Adobe will take a hit. RIM has been so outspoken about the PlayBook's ability to handle Flash that it won't be the only one dinged if things go wrong.
Obviously, this PlayBook-Flash venture is high risk, high reward for both RIM and Adobe. Adobe has to be a bit nervous.
While we're at it, there does seem to be some buzz for the PlayBook. RIM has been successful at garnering interest. It's still too early to determine if the interest is warranted. The product---and the ecosystem---still appears to be in the early stages.