RIM's PlayBook is now radically cheaper at Best Buy, a day after Amazon unveiled its 7-inch Kindle Fire tablet. Coincidence?
At a high-profile Sept. 28 event in New York City, Amazon
unveiled its $199.99 Kindle Fire tablet, a 7-inch device with streamlined
access to the online retailer's multimedia and cloud content.
Within a day, it seems, prominent retailer Best Buy started slashing
of another 7-inch tablet, the BlackBerry-branded PlayBook, by
$200. Nor is that price cut tied to any sort of promotional deal or mail-in
Coincidence? Certainly the Kindle Fire is expected to have a
sizable impact on the tablet market, given Amazon's significant promotional
muscle. And it's no secret that Research In Motion wanted the PlayBook to
perform better in the open market. During
the company's Sept. 15 earnings call, RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis told media and
analysts that sales of the tablet were "below where we'd like it to be," but
that the device would "ultimately be successful in a market that's in its
Whether Best Buy's price cuts become the norm for the
PlayBook remains to be seen, although retailers generally aren't slow when it
comes to slashing prices to match the competition. On Amazon
the 16GB PlayBook is yours for $350.
The Kindle Fire's sticker price significantly undercuts
those of other tablets on the market. Although RIM has positioned the PlayBook
as more of an enterprise device, it's already being positioned as a
head-to-head competitor with the Fire by virtue of the shared 7-inch form-factor.
The PlayBook isn't the only tablet potentially at risk from
a bestselling Kindle Fire. Amazon's tablet could pressure other Android tablet
manufacturers to raise their own game, with more robust multimedia offerings
and perhaps different "skins" on the basic Android interface. Samsung has
already taken steps in this direction with its TouchWiz interface and media
The big target is Apple's iPad. For many months, Apple has
handily dominated the tablet market. Every successive "iPad killer" failed to
reverse or blunt its blockbuster sales trend. Now Amazon's tablet will debut in
November a radically lower price point, loaded with a full array of goods and
services, and backed by the same smart, aggressive marketing efforts that
turned the Kindle into the e-reader market's dominant device.
Some pundits argue that the iPad is a device in a wholly
different category from Amazon's offering, and that the tablet ecosystem is
large enough to accommodate both those users who want an ultra-portable computing
platform (iPad) as well as a multimedia peripheral (Kindle Fire). Time will
tell whether this assertion proves correct, or if the two company's tablets end
up battling for the same wallets.
Nicholas Kolakowski on Twitter