How many Playbooks? 400k sold, 1m+ unsold?

A few datapoints for the over-excited out there: 

  • First, Facebook’s app for the Playbook has 170k monthly active users. So there must be at least that many Playbooks in consumer hands, and more probably something over double that. iPhone, Android and Blackberry handsets all have about 50% penetration, and the Playbook both has a decent browser and is aimed (partly) at corporate users, so one would expect lower Facebook install rates.  
  • Second, in RIM’s statement today the company said: RIM sold into the channels approximately 150,000 BlackBerry PlayBook tablets in the third quarter and sell-through to end customers, based on RIM’s internal data, was higher than this amount. (My emphasis). 

So, RIM’s systems tell it that end-customers bought something more than 150k Playbooks in the November quarter - the implication is that some of these are Playbooks that shipped but didn’t sell in the two previous quarters in which it was on sale. That includes the effect of some new and dramatic price-cuts, so one would expect lower sales in the August quarter, and perhaps a higher figure in the May (launch) quarter. 

Finger in the air? Real customers have probably bought 4-500 thousand so far - maybe 150K + 100k + 175k, or 3x the Facebook app install base. 

So how many Playbooks are sitting in warehouses? Well, in total RIM has shipped 850k Playbooks - 500k in the launch quarter, 200k in the next and 150k in the quarter just ended. It’s sold 4-500k so that leaves maybe 3-450k, right? Wrong. ‘Shipped’ is just the stuff RIM persuaded distributors to take. There may be more - much more - still in RIM (or Quanta) warehouses.  Afterall, the distributors wouldn’t keep taking stock they couldn’t sell. 

This is why the size of the write down is important. If the Playbook was on the books at a cost of $350 each and they were written down to zero then, simplistically, that write down would amount to 1.38m unsold Playbooks ($485m/$350). But they probably haven’t written them to zero - they still have some value. If the write down per device is smaller, then simple maths suggests there could be well over 2m million unsold Playbooks out there. 


If nothing else, this shows just how delusional RIM was about the appeal of this product. I looked at it at MWC/3GSM in Barcelona in February and knew it was a dog within about 30 seconds. I have the suspicion that RIMs CEOs still don’t quite get it. 

Also, what happens to the Android tablet market if RIM dumps 1-2m deeply discounted Playbooks onto the market? At $200 each?