Research In Motion Denies PlayBook Discontinued As Exodus Of Execs Continues

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RIM PLAYBOOK DISCONTINUED
Research In Motion, under pressure over flagging sales and a shrinking bottom line, may have halted production of its PlayBook tablet, a market analyst said Thursday. | AFP/Getty

UPDATE: Research In Motion has denied an analyst's report Thursday that the company has seized production of its PlayBook tablet PC.

"RIM doesn't typically comment on rumors, but any suggestion that the BlackBerry PlayBook is being discontinued is pure fiction," the company told InformationWeek. "RIM remains highly committed to the tablet market."

Research In Motion, under pressure over flagging sales and a shrinking bottom line, may have halted production of its PlayBook tablet, a market analyst said Thursday.

"We believe RIM has stopped production of its PlayBook and is actively considering exiting the tablet market," Collins Stewart analyst John Vihn wrote, as cited at Reuters.

The claim comes a day after Amazon launched its Kindle Fire tablet. Priced for the U.S. market at $199, the wi-fi only device is expected to give Apple’s iPad a run for its money. And some analysts wonder whether it won’t kill the PlayBook altogether.

It’s unlikely the Kindle Fire’s arrival would have prompted RIM to discontinue the PlayBook. Sales of the device had obviously been flagging beforehand, as in the most recent quarter RIM reduced shipments from half a million to 200,000.

Rumours that the company is planning to discontinue its tablet have surfaced before. In July, RIM denied it’s discontinuing the product line, and said it has plans for further rollouts of the device around the world.

The reports come as the BlackBerry maker confirmed Thursday that Tyler Lessard, vice-president of global alliances and developer relations, has resigned from the company. The company also confirmed the departure of Jeff McDowell, vice-president of platform marketing and alliances.

In all, at least five senior executives at RIM have announced their departure in recent months. Bloomberg News reports:

Mike Kirkup, senior director of developer relations, announced his departure in a blog post in August. Ryan Bidan, the product manager in charge of RIM’s PlayBook tablet computer, left for Samsung Electronics Co. in July. Brian Wallace left his job as head of digital marketing at RIM, to join Samsung in June. Chief Marketing Officer Keith Pardy gave his notice with the company in March.

CrackBerry.org, the blog that first reported Lessard’s departure, argues that, far from being a sign of chaos, the execs’ departures mark a shift in the company’s focus.

According to CrackBerry, the departing execs were largely associated with BBOS, RIM’s traditional operating system, while their replacements are associated with QNX, the software company RIM bought in 2010, whose operating system will be used in upcoming generations of BlackBerrys.

As evidence, CrackBerry points to the appointment of Alec Saunders to vice president of developer relations. Saunders had once held the position of vice president of marketing at QNX.

RIM has had a historically bad year, releasing a series of disappointing earnings reports as the company saw its BlackBerry rapidly lose market share to the iPhone and Android phones. As of this week, Bloomberg reports the company’s shares were down 62 per cent for the year.

This week, however, marked something of a bright spot for the company’s shares as investors piled into stock on the news that celebrity investor Carl Icahn may be interested in buying a share of the company.

Some analysts have suggested that Icahn’s involvement could be what the company needs to get over its slump.

“He will move forward and cause the change I think that shareholders want,” said Vic Alboini, chairman and CEO of Jaguar Financial, which owns five per cent of RIM.

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