Sprinting for cover
The challenges continue for RIM, which has seen its share price more than halve since the start of the year.
US mobile operator Sprint had announced at the start of the year that it would be offering the 4G version of the BlackBerry Playbook tablet this summer. Now, according to a Dow Jones report, Sprint has abandoned those plans, leaving the PlayBook 4G without a single network in the US.
"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."
Sprint's 4G network is mainly based around Intel-backed WiMAX technology, but most other 4G networks are based on LTE. BlackBerry seems to have decided to make a virtue out of necessity.
RIM has decided to prioritize and focus its 4G development resources on LTE," said RIM, in a statement. "We remain excited and committed to delivering innovative and powerful 4G tablets to the US market together with our carrier partners. Testing of BlackBerry 4G PlayBook models is already underway and we plan to enter labs for network certifications in the US and other international markets this fall.
In its current form the BlackBerry Playbook doesn't have mobile network connectivity of its own, relying instead on a wireless link with BlackBerry mobile phones. RIM seems to have decided to go straight to 4G with the network-connected version of the Playbook, but may be a bit early to market. This case also shows the delicate balance that needs to be struck between differentiation and confusion in a crowded tablet market.