Those sounds you hear are more tablet prices dropping. Research In Motion is the latest dropper, via a Best Buy limited sale offering a $50 discount on RIM's 16GB BlackBerry PlayBook, down from $499.99.
The retailer is also discounting the 32GB PlayBook by $50 to $549.99, and slashing the 64GB PlayBook by $150, also to $549.99. Best Buy hasn't indicated the length of the sale, or why a customer would buy the 32GB for $549.99 when they can get the 64GB at the same price.
New PlayBook OS?
The Best Buy discount for RIM's tablets may help move those models this Labor Day weekend, but it's unlikely to cause the recent stampede that Best Buy experienced for Hewlett-Packard's discounted, discontinued TouchPad.
After HP announced last month that it would no longer make the tablet or continue development on its webOS operating system, the $499 16GB model dropped to $99, and the $599 32GB model to $149. Only a few days before the HP announcement and price drop, Best Buy reportedly asked the computer maker to take back hundreds of thousands of unsold units. After the price drop, the TouchPad sold out within a few days.
Rather than getting ready to dump its tablet, a la HP, RIM may be clearing out inventory in preparation for a new model with a new version of its PlayBook OS containing an Android app player, among other new features. Such rumors are floating around the web.
But the Best Buy discounts may only be the beginning of the pricing story for PlayBooks. There are reports that Staples has sent out emails from internal sales reps to regular customers, offering PlayBooks at 50 percent off, only on Sept. 7 and 8 and only "while supplies last."
$200 to $300 Tablets
RIM said in June that it had shipped 550,000 PlayBooks, although it's not clear how many of those were actually sold through to customers. RIM is looking to move as many of the PlayBooks as possible to stave off more talk about its financial problems when it gives an earnings report in the middle of this month.
In the last year, the company's stock has dropped more than 50 percent. In July, RIM announced it was cutting its workforce about 10 percent. Along with the layoffs, the Waterloo, Ontario-based company changed its senior management team, with a new COO for product and sales, a new managing director for global sales and regional marketing, and a new COO for operations.
Even as RIM fiddles with its pricing, a wave of $200 to $300 tablets are expected to hit the market. Lenovo's new IdeaPad Tablet A1 starts at $199, Samsung's original Galaxy Tab is now $279, Barnes & Noble's seven-inch nook color e-book reader and pseudo-tablet is $249, and Amazon.com is expected to release one or two models in this price range before the end of the year.