December 28, 2011 / 4:32 PM / 6 years ago

RIM offers hefty discounts on PlayBook in India

TORONTO (Reuters) - BlackBerry maker Research In Motion said on Wednesday it has slashed prices on its PlayBook tablet in India in a move aimed at boosting dismal sales for a device that was briefly considered a potential threat to Apple’s iPad.

A spokesman for RIM said it would offer discounts on all three PlayBook models in India until December 31. The promotion reflects similar price cuts offered in North American markets for more than a month.

The company is roughly halving the price of the PlayBook in India, which RIM views as a big growth market. Growing demand for the BlackBerry in many emerging markets has helped offset flagging North American sales of the once-vaunted smartphone.

Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM has fallen out of favor with both investors and customers, as it has struggled to keep pace in a fast-evolving smartphone market. In recent years, Apple’s iPhone and Google Android devices have gobbled up RIM’s market share.

RIM sorely needs the PlayBook to succeed as it plans to next year launch new smartphones based on the QNX operating system used in the tablet.

If developers fail to create applications for the PlayBook, RIM’s new line of smartphones will likely continue to struggle against the iPhone and Android devices that already boast huge libraries of applications and games that consumers crave.

The wildly popular game Angry Birds has become symbol of the relative dearth of consumer-friendly applications available for the PlayBook. The game, already downloaded hundreds of millions of times, has long been available on both Apple and Android-based devices, but paid versions of the game for the PlayBook only went on sale last week on BlackBerry’s App World website.

The PlayBook, which RIM launched to scathing reviews in April, has sold fewer than a million units, while Apple sold more than 11 million iPads in just its most recent quarter. The base 16 gigabyte version of the PlayBook is currently selling in North America for $199. By comparison, the 16 GB iPad retails for a base price of $499.

Earlier this month, RIM said it was booking a $360 million after-tax writedown on PlayBook inventories and expanding its promotional pricing offers on the PlayBook.

As part of the promotion in India, RIM said the 16 GB version of the PlayBook is available at 13,490 rupees ($250), a more than 50 percent discount from the regular price of 27,990 rupees. The 32 GB model is available at 15,990 rupees and the 64 GB model is for 24,490 rupees, compared with regular prices of 32,990 rupees and 37,990 rupees, respectively.

Adding to its woes, the company announced earlier this month that it was delaying the launch of its QNX-based smartphones to late 2012, long after its initial promise of a first-quarter delivery. RIM said the delay was necessary so that it could make use of more powerful and energy-efficient chipsets expected to arrive in mid-2012.

The long list of setbacks have sent RIM’s shares tumbling more than 70 percent this year to levels not seen since early 2004.

Shares of the company were down 3.7 percent at $14.31 in morning trading on Wednesday on the Nasdaq, while its Toronto-listed shares were up 3 percent at C$14.63. ($1 = 53.0300 Indian rupees) ($1 = $1.02 Canadian dollars)

Reporting By Euan Rocha; Editing by Frank McGurty

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