So, it’s been a few days since Amazon introduced its Kindle Fire, and now I think we can put a final dot in RIM’s PlayBook’s chance for mass adoption. Poor RIM, undercut by the very same hardware manufacturer that made the PlayBook. But first, let me tell the reasons why I think PlayBook won’t play any more unless RIM acts.
Primary reason is an unclear purpose for an average user. Sure, everyone is making tablets these days, but people buy them for different reasons. Apple iPad is a “wow” device, that is also supported by a large library of Apps for practically anything you can think of. Plus, there’s a sizable music and video offering in iTunes store. So, for those who buy the iPad for something practical there are ways to use it in a daily life (usage might taper off to just web browsing and some games, but it’s initial intent that counts).
For geeks and tinkerers there is a variety of Android devices, with different prices/sizes/memory etc. Those are bought for “fun” and maybe some small practical use.
RIM fell into the same trap as many other tablet manufacturers. They thought they could “make something like an iPad for the same price”, and results are generally abysmal. Android OS is not yet as polished as iOS from UX point of view. Sorry, but it’s a fact — it’s way more flexible and I do like it, but compared to gleaming prettiness of iPad — kinda fail. That negative factor is reinforced by manufacturers’ greed. “If we create a comparable hardware, we can certainly sell it for the same price as iPad!” Well, no, not really. Because the experience is not as good, and price is identical if not higher than an iPad. Users aren’t idiots.
On the left — pretty shiny thing from Apple, with proven wow factor. On the right — either clunky and slow, or something that’s fast but is even more expensive than iPad. What will users choose? The Apple, of course (and the sales confirm it).
So the primary solution (and easiest one) is to slash the price. Make the tablet cheap enough and people will buy it (and make it ridiculously cheap like HP Touch and people will buy all available stock). When RIM announced $200 discount, thus making the PlayBook cheaper than iPad it had a chance. Negative factors still remained — it was a new and unknown to most OS with crappy amount of apps available now. Sure, those who used BlackBerry would probably get the tablet, eventually. But if you look at the actual sales RIM is pretty much doomed — people simply don’t buy as many BlackBerry phones as they used to. 9% vs 28% and 56%. Dooooom.
And now the final nail in the coffin — Kindle Fire, which sells for $100 less than cheapest PlayBook, and has backing of Amazon for media content, support of geeks (“It’s an Android!”) and significant number of apps, even though they are in Amazon market instead of the Android one. People like Kindle e-readers, price is affordable (relatively speaking, we are in recession after all), woohoo for sales.
Now some people claim that PlayBook is better than Fire and technically it’s true. Yes, there’s a camera. But how many people do you see on the street taking snapshots? I thought so. Frontal camera? But RIM doesn’t allow you to video chat with anyone now, does it? It’s not like an Apple with FaceTime available on multiple devices. More memory? To run what apps?
What about Fire? Browser? Check. Book reading? Check. Same sized screen? Check. Familiar brand? Also check. After this, do you still think users will flock to PlayBook which is “just $99 more expensive” but has pretty much zero content/ebook/apps in the eyes of a non-BlackBerry user? Yeah, good luck with that.
And as long as RIM will continue to huff and puff about wonderful “value” and not have a price that is identical or cheaper (Amazon actually breaks even on the hardware, unlike RIM) with clear set of Video/Book/Games/Apps (advertise more that Netflix streaming is there, movie rental solution, readers etc), their sales will continue to pewter out. They’ll miss again, show a strained smile and declare whatever sales they get as “satisfying” (kinda like Microsoft does for its Windows Phone platform). The longer they wait, the more disappointment this will bring.
If they really want to be a player in the tablet market, all of the above-mentioned problems with PlayBook have to be resolved now. Tablet should be mega-cheap, so users would buy it out of an interest. Media apps have to dazzle, and be a breeze to use and fancy enough to catch user’s eye in store (right now stands are just boring, there’s no huge difference between noname tablets and PlayBook demo at staples). Ads should blanket every kind of media. Or at least all that saved ad budget should be thrown into price reduction. $150 PlayBook, anyone?