On November 21, BlackBerry maker Research In Motion announced huge holiday price cuts on the 7-inch BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. Though the device debuted earlier in 2011 at $499 (16GB), RIM's most recent reduction brought the tablet down to $199.
If you were hoping to eventually get your hands on one of these super-cheap iPad rivals, your luck may be running out. Within days, Best Buy was reportedly informing customers that existing PlayBook stock had sold out.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, Electronista pointed out, customers began leaving outraged comments on Best Buy message boards saying that their Black Friday PlayBook orders had been cancelled. Many of the cancellations occurred days after the orders were submitted and after at least one customer had already paid for the device.
"The order was cancelled two days after I ordered and paid in good faith. What is going on??!! It took two days to find out that they were out of stock!! EVery [sic] other site says OUT OF STOCK during the order process," wrote one irate would-be PlayBook owner.
This isn't that strange in itself. Normally stagnant tablet sales have, in the past, exploded when prices are lowered. For example, when HP dramatically slashed the price of its ill-fated TouchPad to $99, the formerly unwanted device became an instant hit with consumers, and HP became the second most popular tablet maker in the country.
What is strange about Best Buy's PlayBook shortage, according to Electronista, is that instead of posting an announcement on the PlayBook listing saying that the device was temporarily out of stock, Best Buy completely removed the PlayBook from the site on Sunday morning. At that time, Best Buy listed only accessories and refurbished PlayBook units.
However, as of this writing, BlackBerry PlayBooks have returned to the pages of Best Buy, although they are all marked as "Sold Out Online."
Meanwhile, Staples and Office Max, which were also offering the sale, are currently showing little or no PlayBook stock, at least in the 16GB flavor. Sprint's website, on the other hand, doesn't indicate a shortage on the discounted product.
When RIM announced the $300 markdown on PlayBooks, the company did not say specify an end date for the sale. A tweet from the RIM's official BlackBerry feed stated that the sale would last for "a limited time" only.
Was BlackBerry's removal of PlayBook listings a mistake or a glimpse of what's to come for the gadget?
Whatever happens, this is hardly the first time people have speculated about the demise of the Playbook. In September, Reuters reported that analysts were pointing to layoffs at hardware manufacturer Quanta Computer as evidence that the PlayBook was nearing its end. Despite these rumors and paltry sales figures, RIM has remained optimistic and continued work on the tablet. Ubergizmo reports that the long-awaited native email, calendar and contacts app will be arriving on the BlackBerry tablet in February of next year.