Retailers offering discounted PlayBook tablets

Best Buy and Staples are offering the PlayBook for as little as $299 as the discounts are beginning to kick in.

Let the BlackBerry PlayBook sale begin.

RIM

Best Buy's Canadian Web site and Staples were the first retailers to offer steep discounts on Research In Motion's PlayBook tablet. Staples is selling the low-end 16-gigabyte model for $299.99 after a $100 discount and another $100 mail-in rebate. Best Buy, meanwhile, is selling the same model for $399.99, but throwing in a $100 store gift card.

The discounts were first identified by BGR, which also reported that Wal-Mart is offering the tablet for $250 in an unadvertised sale.

The new prices mark RIM's and the retailers' latest effort to push the PlayBook, which suffered from lackluster sales. The company reported shipping only 200,000 tablets in the previous quarter, a shockingly low number that was well below already tempered expectations. As a result, RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis vowed to drive sales and help its retail partners move the inventory through a number of incentive programs-- corporate jargon for price cuts .

"We are already starting to see some of these promotions being implemented in the form of instant rebates and gift cards within the consumer channel, and expect these promotions to continue into the holiday season," RIM said in a statement e-mailed to CNET today.

The 32-gigabyte version sells for $399.99, while the 64GB version sells for $499.99.

Anyone looking for discounts as steep as the Hewlett-Packard TouchPad fire sale will be disappointed. Retailers cut the price of that tablet as low as $99, driving demand up and forcing retailers to turn customers away because the inventory had rapidly disappeared.

Still, the PlayBook price cuts appear to be working. The 16GB version of the PlayBook is sold out on the Best Buy Web site.

RIM has a lot riding on the QNX platform that powers the PlayBook. The platform will eventually power its next generation of high-end BlackBerrys, which are expected to be unveiled next year.

A recent report said RIM may be sitting on 800,000 PlayBooks , having ordered 1.5 million units from its supplier but only shipping 700,000 over the past two quarters.

But for now, RIM is focusing on sparking sales of the PlayBook. Lazaridis said the company plans to show off its PlayBook 2.0 software next month, which will include native e-mail, calendar, and contacts, a glaring hole in the feature set of the PlayBook when it first debuted earlier this year.

Updated at 5:03 p.m. PT: to include a statement from RIM.

 

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