PlayBook tablet sales surpass Best Buy's expectations

Meanwhile, Sprint opts to sell Xoom Wi-Fi tablet instead

BlackBerry PlayBook tablet sales have far exceeded expectations at retailer Best Buy, the company said after more than a full week of sales.

"Best Buy has had great success selling BlackBerry smartphones in North America, so our sales expectations for the BlackBerry PlayBook were very high," Best Buy said in a statement Thursday. "To date, we have far exceeded those expectations and we're finding that customers are even more interested in purchasing once they've tested the PlayBook in the store."

Sales of the 7-in. PlayBook began on April 19.

On that first day, at least one Best Buy store in Framingham, Mass., had just one 16GB PlayBook on sale for $499.99, and it was being used as a demonstration unit. More arrived a week later. A nearby Radio Shack, however, said it sold all three PlayBooks it had on the first day.

Many critics have faulted the device for supporting too few applications and for failing to include a native email client. Without it, users must rely on Web mail or tether the tablet to a BlackBerry smartphone to reach corporate email through a BlackBerry Enterprise Server. Research in Motion (RIM) has said it will provide a native email client free over-the-air this summer.

Despite such shortcomings, PlayBook might have done well in initial days due to pre-orders from business customers, analysts said. It's not clear how many business customers purchased the devices at Best Buy or other retailers instead of through RIM directly.

Best Buy's statement would tend to bolster findings of an RBC Capital Markets analyst who estimated that PlayBook retail sales hit 50,000 on the first day, apparently more than the launch of Motorola's Xoom tablet or the Samsung Galaxy Tab. (Some have criticized that finding since RBC executive Barbara Stymiest also sits on the board of RIM's board of directors.)

The PlayBook so far is Wi-Fi only and the nation's major wireless carriers have not announced when they will sell it. RIM is planning Wimax, HSPA+ and LTE versions for the carriers, according to analysts.

It is noteworthy that carriers have held off on sales of the Wi-Fi PlayBook, since Sprint today announced it will sell the Xoom Wi-Fi tablet starting Sunday May 8 for $599.99.

Best Buy also announced a promotion on Thursday, saying it will offer three smartphones for free on Friday and Saturday in stores and online, subject to the purchase of two-year service plans from each of the three major carriers. Those phones are the Samsung Fascinate on Verizon; the Samsung Captivate on AT&T; and the BlackBerry Curve 3G on Sprint.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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