iPad 2; BlackBerry -6

As Apple's latest gadget hits the shops, BlackBerry's parent company has begun to lose market share. Can its new tablet claw it back?

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 21 Apr 2011
Unless you’ve been hiding in the proverbial cave on Mars, you’ll know that today is the day the iPad 2 is released. Which makes it doubly unfortunate that RIM, the creator of the device’s soon-to-be competitor, the BlackBerry Playbook, has seen shares fall after it was forced to admit profits aren’t going to be quite as positive as it had hoped this year. While its profits for the year to the end of February hit $934m (£579m), 31% up on a year before, the company admitted that its share of the global smartphone market dropped from 20% to 14% in the fourth quarter. And chances are that as competition among smartphone producers hots up, that’s only going to continue…

While revenues hit $5.6bn, up 36% from the year before, they were slightly short of expectations. But Canadian-owned RIM is keen to point out that it’s not just its dwindling market share to blame: it’s also because while squeezed consumers are sticking with BlackBerry, they’re opting for the lower end of its price scale instead. And the cost of developing and marketing the Playbook has been more than it expected, too.

The iPad-like Playbook is due out halfway through April, and clearly, RIM is banking on its new tablet to help it regain some of that market it lost over the last year. And co-CEO (not a job title you hear often) Jim Balsillie insists that while costs might have been over and above what it had budgeted for, it’s an ‘investment in the future’.

But will it be enough? Interestingly, a press release landed in MT’s inbox just this morning saying the Playbook will be able to run apps written for Google’s Android operating system as well. Since the success of a tablet or smartphone these days largely depends on the number of apps available for it, that’s a pretty smart move.

Balsillie says that the tablet has had plenty of interest: ‘I have many corporate clients that have approached us about, you know, each wanting tens of thousands, several tens of thousands of Playbooks,’ he stammered. But let’s not forget that the Playbook’s cooler competitor, the iPad, has been about for over a year now – in fact, it’s now on its second version. So let’s hope it’s not a case of too little, too late.

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