Death of HP TouchPad is prime opportunity for RIM PlayBook

RIM should follow Microsoft's lead and find a way to embrace the customers and developers being left out by the WebOS tablet.

Perhaps you've heard that the HP TouchPad tablet has suffered an untimely demise? There are a lot of lessons that rival tablet vendors can learn from the death of the TouchPad (and the feeding frenzy it created in its wake). More importantly, though, the loss of the TouchPad creates a prime opportunity for a tablet like the BlackBerry PlayBook.

Watching the demand for the HP TouchPad spike to Black Friday -- or even iPad launch day -- levels following a dramatic price cut, some believe that the path to tablet glory is paved in pennies. I don't agree that tablets need to be $100 in order to compete with the iPad, but I do think that the TouchPad frenzy illustrates the potential to use a deep discount as a marketing loss leader just to build a base that can fuel app development and sustain the device in the long run.

There is yet another lesson here, though -- a lesson that Microsoft jumped on right away. Along with the TouchPad, HP also pulled the plug on its WebOS smartphones. Microsoft recognized that the WebOS void means an army of disgruntled app developers, and implemented a plan to woo those WebOS developers to start creating apps for its Windows Phone 7 platform. Brilliant!

Therein lies the opportunity for RIM. RIM should take advantage of the fact that there are now a few hundred thousand people who just purchased a TouchPad tablet that is already defunct and obsolete, and offer a trade-in program to convert them to the BlackBerry PlayBook.

Sure, other tablet vendors could do the same, but the difference between Samsung, Motorola, Lenovo, HTC, and others versus RIM is that they are all building tablets for Android, while RIM is in a world all its own with the QNX-based PlayBook. Instead of pouring money into half-baked schemes for lame streaming music services, RIM should invest in converting TouchPad owners to PlayBook owners.

A vendor like Motorola could do a TouchPad trade-in program for the Xoom, but it would be taking a loss on its own hardware in order build momentum for the whole Android ecosystem. Perhaps it might make sense if Google took the initiative on a grander scale and funded the trade-in program letting customers trade TouchPads for any of the major Android tablets.

So, new TouchPad owners -- if RIM were to offer you a 16GB BlackBerry PlayBook for $200 if you trade in your obsolete TouchPad, would you do it? Including the cost of buying the TouchPad, you'd be spending $300 to get a tablet that retails for $500.

No? Would you do it at any price? Would you trade in your TouchPad for an Android tablet offering a similar promotion?

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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