Operating-system issues have apparently affected a tiny subset of Research In Motion's PlayBook tablets, according to online reports.
"Approximately 900 units of the BlackBerry PlayBook have been determined to be faulty," reads an internal memo circulating among Staples stores, posted May 14 by Engadget. "The vendor has provided the serial numbers so that we can pull these off the floor." The blog also posted the serial numbers of the PlayBooks affected by the issue.
On May 15, the blog CrackBerry posted an official response from RIM, which claimed the "majority" of faulty devices "are still in the distribution channel and haven't reached customers." The affected tablets reportedly "were shipped with an OS build that may result in the devices being unable to properly load software upon initial setup."
Soon after the PlayBook's release, RIM faced substantial criticism from tech pundits over the 7-inch tablet's lack of applications and what some said was an unfinished feel. On top of that, rumors suggest that Sprint's 4G-enabled version has been delayed until further notice-potentially a public-relations blow to RIM as it seeks to promote the PlayBook as a viable alternative to Apple's iPad and the growing host of Google Android devices.
Despite that early criticism, there are hints that the PlayBook has been selling at a respectable clip. Jefferies & Co. analyst Peter Misek estimated that, based on sell-through surveys taken at Best Buy and Staples, the tablet sold at least 45,000 units at launch. "If correct, 45K+ sell through on the first day would be a success," he wrote in an April 20 research note. "We also estimate enterprise preorders to be meaningfully higher than consumer. We think PlayBook sales are far exceeding MMI's [Motorola Mobility's] Xoom sales."
If the PlayBook proves a solid success, it could help RIM as it struggles to spark some momentum in the mobile space. Lower-than-expected BlackBerry smartphone sales recently forced the company to dial back its earnings forecast for the fiscal 2012 first quarter. The aging portfolio of BlackBerry devices, including the Bold and the Storm, is blamed for a newfound softness in device shipments.
RIM used May's BlackBerry World conference in Orlando, Fla., to unveil the BlackBerry Bold 9900 and 9930, thin and powerful devices running BlackBerry OS 7. That proved a disappointment to the gathered analysts and pundits, who'd been expecting RIM to unveil a more radical roadmap and a broader number of BlackBerry OS 7 smartphones. RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis suggested that devices loaded with the company's QNX-based operating system-which powers the PlayBook-wouldn't actually appear until sometime in 2012.
RIM has some issues, in other words. But with the exception of a small number of defective units, RIM's PlayBook doesn't seem to be one of them.