By Jared Newman | Thursday, May 5, 2011 at 2:50 pm
More bad news for Research in Motion’s Blackberry Playbook: A leaked Sprint memo says the carrier has indefinitely delayed its plans to sell a 4G version of the tablet.
The news follows a non-committal from Verizon Wireless, which last month said it was still evaluating the Playbook. Sprint’s alleged memo gave no reason for the delay.
We shouldn’t be suprised to see this happen, but not simply because the Playbook is a critical flop so far. The real issue, I think, is tablet fatigue on the part of wireless carriers. The market’s about to be flooded with competition for Apple’s iPad, so it’s not only a buyer’s market for consumers, it’s a buyer’s market for carriers as well.
Consider what happened last time wireless carriers rushed into supporting a shiny new tablet, with Samsung’s Galaxy Tab. By January, Samsung had sold 2 million Tabs to retailers, with support from all four major U.S. carriers. But how many did consumers buy? We don’t know. Samsung’s only comment was to say that sell-through had been “smooth,” in other words, not stellar enough to brag about.
Then in February, Verizon stuck its neck out for the Motorola Xoom, becoming the tablet’s exclusive mobile broadband carrier. Again, no sell-through stats are available, but Motorola said it has sold 250,000 tablets to retailers. Apple’s iPad 2 likely beat that number in one weekend.
So I can understand why Sprint and Verizon would hold off on the Playbook. Adding new tablets requires resources for testing performance and delivering upgrades, as well as physical space in retail stores. And there’s little evidence that every incoming iPad competitor is worth the trouble. If I were running a wireless network, I’d want to be pretty picky at this point.