Next Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, which means that next Friday is Black Friday--the official launch of the holiday shopping season and a day filled with remarkable deals. One of those Black Friday specials will be the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, but at $199 it still isn’t much of a bargain.
The BlackBerry PlayBook is currently selling for its full retail price of $499 at Best Buy, and at a discounted $349 at Amazon. Actually, that is using the word “selling” loosely. It is available from those retailers, and those retailers are asking those prices. Whether it is selling at all is a matter of debate.
Compared to $499, though, the $199 Black Friday price seems like a steal. It’s not.
The Kindle Fire and Lenovo Ideapad A1 are both available from Amazon for that same $199, and they will be shipped to your door in the comfort of your own home instead of you having to wait in line for hours to scratch and claw in hope of getting one of the few BlackBerry PlayBook units likely available at a given store. If you have Amazon Prime you can get many tablets delivered in only two days for free.
I have already pointed out that the advent of Android-based tablets like the Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet put iPad rivals in general in a bind. The BlackBerry PlayBook now must simultaneously justify its price in relation to the Apple iPad, and relative to a diverse array of cheaper Android cousins.
Companies selling iPad rivals continue to market their tablets based on specs, trying to compete against the Apple tablet at the same price. The problem is that the user experience is an intangible that goes beyond the specs, and other tablets are not delivering a user experience worthy of the $500-plus price tag.
The demise of the HP TouchPad provides a cautionary tale for the makers of iPad rivals. The real lesson of the HP TouchPad, though, is what a blockbuster success it was once the price was dropped to something more reasonable, and more in line with its actual value. The TouchPad was worth more than $99, but it was a mistake to try and sell it on par with the iPad.
Is the BlackBerry PlayBook a good deal at $199? Yes. However, that should just be its normal price, rather than a Black Friday “bargain”. I would buy a $199 BlackBerry PlayBook before I would pay $199 for a Kindle Fire, or $249 for a Nook Tablet, but I wouldn’t be willing to camp out in the cold for hours just to try and be first in line to get one as a Black Friday “doorbuster”.
RIM needs to make the PlayBook $200 or $250 for the long haul, not just a flash-in-the-pan bargain for a few intrepid diehards on Black Friday.