$199 Blackberry Playbooks Are Back to Kill RIM’s Profits

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If you missed out on the last round of $199 Blackberry Playbook tablets, here’s another chance.

Staples is selling the 16 GB Playbook for $199, the 32 GB model for $299 and the 64 GB model for $399. Prices at Best Buy and Office Depot are $199.99 for the 16 GB model, $249.99 for the 32 GB model and $399.99 for the 64 GB model.

(MORE: Blackberry: Vision Needed)

Research in Motion cut the price of the Playbook around Black Friday, but retailers quickly ran out of inventory. Some customers of Best Buy and Shop Blackberry even reported having their orders cancelled, as retailers took orders for more tablets than they could fulfill.

Now, the deals are back, but it’s not clear for how long. RIM is taking a write-down of $485 million–or $360 million after tax–to unload Playbook inventory. The company was clearly thrown for a loop by Amazon’s $200 Kindle Fire, but needs to get Playbooks into consumers’ hands at any cost. The Playbook’s operating system is the basis for Blackberry 10, so it’s essential for RIM to have a base of consumers who will attract app developers to the platform.

Is the Playbook worth buying, even for $200? For most people, no. The Kindle Fire has more apps and better services for buying books, movies and music. The Playbook doesn’t even have apps for e-mail, calendar or contacts. (RIM’s promising to add these features in February, after missing earlier deadlines.) The Playbook’s main redeeming features are a slick, swipe-based interface and true multitasking, which keeps apps running even when they’re in the background.

If you’re comfortable with a small app selection, and are willing to gamble that RIM will add more features and attract more app developers in a timely manner, the Playbook could be for you. Otherwise, keep shopping.

MORE: RIM in Limbo: Next-Gen BlackBerry Phones Delayed to Late 2012