RIM's PlayBook fire sale ain't so hot

Buying a PlayBook for $299 would save you 13 percent at best -- or cost you 23 percent at worst

Signaling that holiday sales of the PlayBook weren't particularly hot, RIM has slashed the prices on all three versions of the tablet to $299. Deal seekers may want to exercise a little restraint, however, before attempting to cure post-holiday depression by snapping up a shiny new tablet at what may look like a bargain-basement price.

The fact of the matter is, this is a far cry from HP's unloading of its unpopular TouchPad for $99 a pop. That was actually a good deal, one that techies eagerly jumped on. In this case, it may look as though RIM is offering its tablet for as much as 60 percent off when, in fact, you are, at best, saving around 13 percent -- or at worst, paying an extra 23 percent for a new PlayBook.

Going strictly by the numbers, the regular retail prices for the PlayBook on RIM's website are as follows: $499 for the 16GB version, $599 for the 32GB version, and $699 for the 64GB version. Now all three are marked at $299 on the RIM site through Jan. 4. Why the exact same price for all three? Presumably to make the high-end model look all the more like an offer you just can't pass on.

Here's the rub: At $299, the 16GB is actually priced higher than what you'll find on the open market. Simply perusing Amazon.com reveals that retailers are selling the 16GB version of the device brand new for as low as $243, including shipping. RIM's sale on the low-end PlayBook really isn't a sale at all.

As for the 32GB and 64GB models, would-be buyers who need that extra internal memory will end up enjoying a very modest savings if they take advantage of the $299 deal: The 32GB version of the PlayBook is selling on Amazon for as low as $313 (new, with shipping), while the 64GB version can be yours for as little as $363.

Anyone who's compared the PlayBook to other tablets on the market understands why the device is already selling for less than RIM's inflated retail price. Simply said, the PlayBook is a dud. To make it remotely usable, for example, you need a BlackBerry phone, and that's not a particularly prudent investment these days either. Users are also limited in terms of application availability, and security and management features are severely lacking.

It's tough to imagine that the folks at RIM are unaware of the market price of its PlayBook, so one must wonder what, exactly, the company is trying to accomplish here beyond extending its track record of disappointing its customers.

This story, "RIM's PlayBook fire sale ain't so hot," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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