When Research In Motion’s BlackBerry PlayBook tablet came out in the spring of 2011, it was met with a less than enthusiastic reception from tech consumers.
But there’s one place in the world where — if a recent market analysis is correct — the PlayBook is holding its own against tech behemoth Apple, and that’s the U.K.
According to data from IT analysis firm Context, cited at U.K. tech site The Channel, the BlackBerry PlayBook outsold the latest generation of the iPad (the iPad with retina display) in the last two months of 2012.
It’s a rare bit of good sales news for the company a day ahead of its make-or-break launch of its BlackBerry 10 generation of smartphones.
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According to Context’s data, RIM shipped 160,000 PlayBooks in the U.K. at the end of last year, compared to 113,000 iPads with retina display.
There are a couple caveats here: One, Context’s data don’t include sales at Apple stores, though — according to BGR blog — the data still reflect the overall shape of the U.K. market; and two, the number reflects only sales of the latest iPad model. All iPad models, in total, racked up sales of 203,000.
That’s more than total PlayBook sales, but the numbers are so close they still surprised market observers, who didn’t expect the PlayBook to come anywhere near the scale of iPad sales.
Market analysts point to price as the reason for the PlayBook’s success. BGR reports that there is “an important shift in the market,” away from the well-known tablet brands and towards more affordable models — something that’s likely to help RIM in its sales.
The Today’s iPhone blog points out that the PlayBook retails for 129 British pounds in the U.K. (about C$204). By comparison, Apple’s iPad with retina goes for 399 British pounds (about C$630).
RIM has long had a particularly strong presence in the U.K., with its proprietary messaging service, BBM, being a hit among young smartphone users.
BBM was so popular that it was the communication method of choice during the London riots of 2011, frustrating police efforts to track down rioters because the messaging service is encrypted.
"BlackBerry. Nothing but BlackBerry," a London riot witness told The Guardian. "No one was on their computer, everyone was on their phones. BlackBerry's how we knew what – everything was happening."
Despite the positive news out of the U.K., shares of Research In Motion tumbled on North American markets on Tuesday.
RIM stock fell 99 cents, or 6.76 per cent, to $15.28 in early afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange on top of a 7.6 per cent slide Monday.
But as of Friday, RIM stock had soared 50 per cent during January.
“The returns have been huge here, and for sure you're probably seeing some profit taking, some buy on rumour, sell on news,'' said Gareth Watson, vice-president of investment management and research at Richardson GMP Ltd.
“But also, the reality that the device is about to be launched... we don't know how successful it will be.''
— With files from The Canadian Press