Talking tech since 2003

A little more than a year ago when Steve Jobs first unveiled the Apple iPad many saw the device as revolutionary; not only in terms of grandfathering the tablet industry with previously unheard of features, but in terms of the price as well.  With baseline models starting at just $499 (16GB, WiFi), the iPad was definitely competitively priced; especially for an Apple product.  The iPad’s price-point, in my opinion, is one of the reasons that the iPad came to be as successful as it was.  Now that the second-generation iPad has hit the open market sporting more features than one could have previously imagined, the iPad’s pricing scheme is more competitive than ever.

With that in mind, pricing is one of the biggest aspects in making another tablet product competitive on the mobile market.  Because let’s face it; with the current state of our economy, people sometimes often evaluate price more than the quality or feature behind a product.  Recently, Research in Motion (RIM) formally announced the pricing structure for the BlackBerry Playbook; a device that hypothetically speaking could take the once-prestige mobile giant in a whole new (and profitable) direction.

Mimicking the iPad’s pricing, the RIM PlayBook will start out with a 16GB model priced at $499, as announced yesterday.  While I do think this will help their sales be a bit more competitive, I highly doubt that RIM will be able to take away a huge chunk of Apple’s iPad sales.

You see, Apple has already had their product out on the market for more than a year now.  In this time period the iPad has become a very well-known product, and with millions of customers having purchased the device it has earned an outstanding reputation amongst technically savvy and non-technically savvy users alike.  RIM is just now entering the tablet arena, and is going to be selling a device that has yet to prove itself to consumers and end users at the same price that Apple is selling an “established” and “proven” product.

Really.  Apple has invested unspoken amounts of capital on advertising the iPad; on making it more attractive to end-users.  In the last year, the company has done everything in their power to root themselves into the tablet industry as much as possible.  RIM, on the other hand, is just starting out in the tablet industry and will have even more work ahead of them than Apple did simply because there is already existing competition.

Now, as a consumer, let’s say you have $499 (plus taxes and fees and whatnot) in your pocket and are shopping around for a tablet.  If you were deciding between the BlackBerry PlayBook and the Apple iPad – both the same price, mind you – which one would you pick?  For most people, there’s no denying that the answer would be the iPad.  For this reason, I honestly think that RIM is going to have a significant roadblock in their journey to success with the PlayBook.

So what do I think RIM should do?  Personally, I haven’t a doubt in my mind that the PlayBook still has potential, but RIM is going to have to get creative in marketing and selling their product.  Obviously the first option would be to simply drop the price on the product in hopes that budget-stricken consumers will opt for the lesser expensive product.  However, I would imagine that if RIM had the ability to release the PlayBook at a lower price whilst not negatively impacting their bottom line they would have already done so.  Having said that, I just don’t see a price drop as a viable option.

However, by targeting their marketing and sales efforts specifically to businesses I think RIM could open up a whole new set of doors that Apple’s consumer-driven iPad marketing doesn’t seem to have scratched all that deeply.

When all is said and done, though, I still think that RIM has a standing chance.  It’s just going to be more of a challenge to penetrate an already saturated market.

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