Prepare for BlackBerry Playbook Price Cuts as RIM Slumps

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These days, you’ve got to be crazy to sell a tablet for the same price as Apple’s iPad, so it’s no surprise that Research in Motion is planning to slash the price of its ailing Blackberry Playbook tablet.

RIM Co-CEO Jim Balsillie said that the company will soon offer rebates on the Playbook, according to Boy Genius Report. For businesses, RIM will offer some kind of incentive program to spur sales.

(MORE: BlackBerry PlayBook Flopped Hard, Says Retail Source)

Last quarter, RIM shipped just 200,000 Playbook tablets, compared to 500,000 Playbooks in the prior quarter, but RIM won’t say how many of those tablets wound up in consumers’ hands. (Units shipped and units sold are not the same thing.) Wall Street had expected RIM to sell 700,000 tablets last quarter.

Balsillie didn’t say how much of a rebate RIM will offer, or when that rebate will be available. The timing will probably coincide with a big Playbook software update, which will bring native email and calendar apps and an Android “app launcher” that allows Android apps to run on the Playbook. (Android developers will still have to repackage the software themselves and pass RIM’s approval process.)

Although the Playbook is a flop so far, I don’t expect RIM to clear out its inventory in an HP TouchPad-like fire sale. HP’s situation was unique because the company wants to spin off or sell its hardware business so it can focus on enterprise software, and doesn’t plan to make any more WebOS tablets or phones.

The Playbook, meanwhile, represents RIM’s future. The QNX operating system inside the Playbook will eventually appear in Blackberry phones, and may be RIM’s best shot at stopping market share from plummeting. RIM won’t be so quick to abandon the platform, so as much as I’d love to see a $99 Playbook, it’s probably not going to happen. So here’s the question: How much would you pay for a 7-inch tablet with a neat interface and a serious app shortage?

MORE: The Tragic Decline of BlackBerry