PlayBook Launch Better Than Expected: About 50,000 Units Sold

After mixed reviews detailing the unfinished state, not to mention the bugs and quirks that comprise RIM’s new 7-inch tablet computer, the BlackBerry PlayBook, few expected yesterday’s launch to be anything short of failure. But as it turns out, the tablet did better than expected – at least according to analysts. Early reports estimate that Research in Motion (RIM) moved around 50,000 units on day one of the PlayBook’s commercial availability. There are even some reports of the tablet selling out at major retailers.

Of course, 50,000 is a drop in the bucket when compared with Apple’s booming tablet business. For comparison’s sake, Apple sold 300,000 iPads on day one last April – a launch that defined the tablet market itself.

As reported by RBC Capital Markets, close to 50,000 PlayBook units were sold on its first day, when combined with pre-order numbers, a number estimated at approximately 25,000. Retail sales were estimated at 20,000. In addition, one in nine of the major retail locations the firm contacted said they sold out of PlayBooks within the first 24 hours. In North America, the PlayBook was available at retailers like Sears, Future Shop, Staples and Best Buy. In particular, many of the 180 Best Buy locations reported they were out of stock, the report said.

While these sales don’t even come close to what the iPad delivered, The Economic Times noted that the PlayBook performed better on day one than both Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and Motorola’s Xoom did, both of which run Android.

That’s not to say that the PlayBook doesn’t have its challenges ahead. Gadget reviewers have skewered the PlayBook for its lack of core applications like email, calendaring and contacts – those are only available when tethered to a BlackBerry smartphone for now. While an added benefit for I.T. departments concerned with security, this leaves potential consumers out in the cold. This summer, RIM will offer a software update that solves that problem, however, the company said. The tablet also encountered issues with AT&T this week. The carrier is not allowing the tablet’s tethering software, BlackBerry Bridge, to run on PlayBooks connected to its network.

Considering the PlayBook’s currently crippled state, and its related issues, these day one sales are surprisingly good news for the ailing mobile device maker. According to analyst Peter Misek of Jeffries & Co.,” “45K+ sell through on the first day would be a success.” Success, it appears, is relative.

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