| | 08-12-11, 01:48 PM Thread Author #1
Playbook; Sprint Halts 4G Version...
RIM Playbook Suffers Another Blow As Sprint Halts 4G Version
By Greg Bensinger Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
AUGUST 12, 2011, 1:55 P.M. ET
NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Research In Motion Ltd.'s (RIMM) tablet hopes were dealt another blow as Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) said it canceled plans to sell a version of the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet on its speedier network.
The decision means the device hasn't yet found any support from the three largest U.S. wireless carriers, which includes AT&T Inc. (T) and Verizon Wireless. Without their backing, RIM will have to bear the burden of sales and marketing support for the device, as well as application development.
In contrast, Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) market-dominating iPad is advertised and supported by both AT&T and Verizon Wireless, and the tablet is displayed prominently in stores.
Sprint had said in January it would sell a version of the device as soon as this summer that would run on its fourth-generation network. The carrier said this week that those plans had been halted because the market for tablets has became too crowded.
"It's an interesting concept, it just hasn't caught on with business customers as much as they would like," said Paget Alves, president of Sprint's business markets group. "There are so many tablets in the market, it creates confusion for the average customer."
A Sprint spokeswoman added that the decision "has no impact on our relationship with RIM." The Overland Park, Kan., company noted that competing tablets, such as the Xoom from Motorola Mobility Holding Inc. (MMI) and the Evo View from HTC Corp. (2498.TW), had increased competition in the space.
Representatives from Research In Motion did not respond Friday to requests for comment. RIM shares rose 1.4% Friday to $24.51, and Sprint advanced 1.5% to $3.17.
RIM co-Chief Executive Mike Lazaridis said as recently as June that the company would offer a version of the PlayBook this summer enabled for the 4G WiMax network Sprint uses through partner Clearwire Corp. (CLWR). Lazaridis said he expected to roll out PlayBooks on additional networks in the fall.
The Waterloo, Ontario-based company launched the PlayBook in April with the aim of luring new customers as sales of BlackBerry smartphones grew more slowly. Since then, RIM has had to contend with tepid reviews, a small recall and an inability for it to connect to some e-mail accounts.
RIM reported it shipped 500,000 Wi-Fi-only PlayBooks in its fiscal 2012 first quarter in North America. By contrast, Apple said it sold 9.3 million iPads in the June-ended quarter, and Motorola recorded 440,000 deliveries of its Xoom tablet.
The Wi-Fi-only version of the Playbook is available through Sprint, Best Buy Co. (BBY), RadioShack Corp. (RSH) and Office Depot Inc. (ODP). RIM also sells the tablet in Australia, Germany and Indonesia, among other countries.
Verizon Wireless, which is co-owned by Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and Vodafone Group PLC (VOD), is still evaluating the PlayBook and hasn't determined if it will sell it through its network, a spokeswoman said. An AT&T spokesman said the carrier still plans to offer the device on its network but hasn't yet set a date for doing so.
Rival device-makers have had little success so far in catching up to Apple after its launch of the iPad in April 2010. Estimates vary, but analysts suggest Apple has two-thirds of the market, if not more. In an attempt to close the gap, Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) this week made permanent a $100 price cut, to $399, for its least-expensive TouchPad tablets.
Demand for tablets is seen rising. Research firm IDC in July boosted its world-wide tablet computer shipments forecast to 53.5 million this year, from a previous 50.4 million estimate, even as deliveries of the devices dropped 28% in this year's first three months.
-By Greg Bensinger, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-4676; firstname.lastname@example.org
RIM Playbook Suffers Another Blow As Sprint Halts 4G Version - WSJ.com