RIM gets desperate to move BlackBerry Playbooks

Research In Motion (s rimm) has a bit of a problem on its hands. It’s got a bunch of PlayBook tablets sitting on shelves and little reason for people to buy them, especially now that some needed software improvements won’t come until next year. So stoking demand for the unloved tablet is getting harder, which explains why RIM is introducing a new “buy two, get one free” offer on PlayBooks through the rest of the year.

RIM is also throwing in an additional bonus for buyers, allowing them to get a free premium accessory for each tablet such as a leather sleeve, charging pad or HDMI cable. This follows is on top of discounts and rebates that it was helping underwrite for retailers who were struggling to move the tablets. After shipping 500,000 tablets in its first quarter of sales, RIM moved just 200,000 in the most recent quarter, with many sitting on shelves.

RIM might have been able to get people interested in the PlayBook if it had pushed out an update for the OS in time for the holidays. But the company acknowledged on Tuesday that the BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 has been delayed until February to ensure that the update meets the expectations of developers and customers. So that means RIM still won’t be able to offer native email, calendar, contacts and BlackBerry Messenger on the PlayBook until at least then. Users will continue to have to rely on BlackBerry Bridge to connect email and BlackBerry Messenger.

With the software delay, I’m not sure a new discount will help move sales. It’s a lever to pull for RIM, but it just shows how desperate the company is to clear out some inventory. I don’t think customers are going to be inspired by this when the device is still crippled. The PlayBook has some features to like for end users, but this is being offered to enterprise customers who can afford to buy two devices at a time. And for those corporate customers, many have had plenty of time to decide whether or not PlayBooks are a smart investment, and I doubt this will change things.

RIM is going through a very difficult transition year, and yet it keeps hurting itself with its inability to execute, combined with some letdowns like a huge service outage. I’m anxious to see how the new BBX phones built on the QNX platforms perform, but with this increasing habit of missing deadlines, I’ll have to see those devices in the flesh before I start believing in their potential. I’d like to think that RIM still has a chance to stay competitive, but it can’t keep shooting itself in the foot. And offering desperate discounts won’t change things. They just make you look, well, desperate.