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RIM Opens Faltering Playbook to LTE

Thu, 08/02/2012 - 7:31am
Andrew Berg

Research In Motion (RIM) remains true to its commitment to the BlackBerry Playbook with today's launch of a new LTE-capable version of the QNX-based tablet.

The new slate preserves the same general 7-inch form factor as the first generation PlayBook, with a few additional features. 

The LTE BlackBerry PlayBook will come with 32GB of memory storage and will be available from Bell, Rogers and Telus in Canada on Aug. 9, RIM said in a statement. 

Additional variants of the tablet supporting other cellular networks are expected to be available in the coming months from carriers in the United States, Europe, South Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

The new Playbook comes amid desperate times for RIM, whose promised line of BlackBerry 10 smartphones has been delayed multiple times.

The company's market share has seen steep decline in recent months while investors worry that the new devices will be too little, too late in the face of stiff competition from the likes of Apple and Google's Android OS. 

RIM's most recent earnings spell out the truly dire nature of the company's situation. In the first quarter of its 2013 fiscal year, RIM reported $2.8 billion in revenue, a sequential drop of 33 percent, while net losses came in at $518 million. RIM’s stock has lost more than 68 percent of its value over the past year. 

But perhaps the most damning news to come out of the company's latest earnings call was an announcement that the new BlackBerry 10 smartphone launch has been delayed until early 2013. RIM had originally promised the new phones would see the market this fall.

RIM CEO Thorsten Heins said that the company's development teams are having a hard time integrating the new BlackBerry 10 software, stressing that he would "not deliver a product to the market that is not ready to meet the needs of our customers or provide anything less than an outstanding user experience with the quality I expect a BlackBerry product to have."

The new Playbook with LTE is at least a reassuring sign that the RIM has perfected LTE connectivity. Since its initial launch, the Playbook has acted as RIM's flagship QNX device, the underlying platform upon which its next-generation smartphones will be based.

While initial reviews of the Playbook were generally positive, some criticized the device for lack of core features such as native email.  Reviews aside, sales of the tablets have been weak. RIM sold just 260,000 PlayBooks in the last quarter and the devices have already seen drastic price cuts in an effort to move inventory.  

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