Research in Motion may have modest targets for its new PlayBook tablet. According to news reports, the Canadian BlackBerry maker is manufacturing only 150,000 to 200,000 PlayBooks per month.
The reports are based on sources at component suppliers in Taiwan. RIM's PlayBooks are being built at Quanta's plant on that island and are expected to be available as early as next month.
PlayBook + BlackBerry
RIM reportedly has insisted that its tablets be built entirely in Taiwan, in order to protect the device from being cloned on the Chinese mainland. Apple's category-defining iPad has fallen victim to knockoffs in China, and RIM doesn't want a repeat.
Earlier this month, RIM was rumored to have planned for one million PlayBooks by March, so the new reports appear to confirm the company's move into a more cautious launch. RIM's PlayBook is being compared to Motorola's Xoom tablet, which is also about to roll out.
RIM is expected to release the PlayBook with Wi-Fi before a 3G version. Motorola's Xoom will be launched with both Wi-Fi and 3G in the first quarter. A 4G LTE Xoom, released through Verizon Wireless, is expected in the second quarter. Some reports indicate that Motorola will manufacture 700,000 to 800,000 units for launch.
RIM plans a U.S.-first launch, with international markets later. If RIM is indeed taking a cautious approach, it may be in part to assess reactions to the PlayBook's requirement of a BlackBerry for cellular connectivity.
More than a few observers have noted that this required coupling isn't inviting to the consumer market. But it could be welcomed by IT managers, allowing better management of a fleet of tablets. Undoubtedly, RIM wants to find out which market really wants this arrangement.
The Tablet Race
The jockeying among many new tablet devices is in full flight as a variety of companies try for second place against the iPad. About a hundred new tablets were showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month, including ones from Lenovo, Dell, NEC, Acer, Toshiba, ASUS and others, in addition to Motorola and RIM. Hewlett-Packard's event to unveil its webOS tablets is in early February, and there is a significant amount of anticipation.
If there is a second-place holder at the moment, it would be Samsung, whose Galaxy Tab has sold about two million units in three months.
When unveiled at CES, Motorola's Xoom sported dual-core processors, compatibility with 4G, HDMI-out, a two-megapixel camera in front and a five-megapixel in the back, and a 10-inch screen. It also has Android 3.0, known as Honeycomb, which has been optimized for tablets. It also has a secret asset -- a built-in barometer for measuring atmospheric pressure in case you want to predict your own weather.
RIM's PlayBook contains a one-gigahertz ARM processor, a seven-inch screen, 1GB of memory, HDMI-out, and two cameras -- a three-megapixel on the front and a five-megapixel on the back. There's Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and, for 3G connections, the device connects through Bluetooth to a BlackBerry smartphone.