Verizon agrees to target RIM PlayBook to enterprise accounts

Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) continues to keep Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry PlayBook tablet in a holding pattern, despite giving the BlackBerry maker access to its corporate accounts for PlayBook sales.

RIM Co-CEO Jim Balsillie said during the company's quarterly conference call last week that "we are working with Verizon to target enterprise accounts with PlayBook."

However, a Verizon spokeswoman confirmed that the nation's largest wireless carrier hasn't changed its stance on selling the PlayBook via its retail channels. In April, Verizon spokeswoman Brenda Raney told the Wall Street Journal that "we're still evaluating the PlayBook and haven't made a decision on whether we're going to distribute it."

RIM's failure to break into Verizon's healthy retail channel represents a significant hiccup in the company's rollout of its first tablet; RIM and Verizon worked closely on the introduction of the BlackBerry Storm and Storm 2 in the past. However, RIM has worked to expand PlayBook distribution to a number of other outlets, including retailers like Best Buy and carriers such as Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) (for the Wi-Fi version of the device).

Interestingly, the nation's other major carrier, AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), also continues to give RIM a hard time on the PlayBook. During RIM's conference call, Balsillie said AT&T continues to test the BlackBerry Bridge software required to connect a PlayBook with a BlackBerry smartphone. AT&T has said it is evaluating whether the Bridge feature should trigger a tethering charge.

Balsillie also said that 4G versions of the PlayBook (WiMAX, LTE and HSPA+) would be available in the fall--a statement that represents a delay from initial promises of summer availability.  

Despite the continued rocky road for the PlayBook's rollout, RIM's executives remain optimistic. "While the PlayBook launch did not go as smoothly as we had planned, the potential of the product and the powerful underlying OS was recognized and acknowledged by partners, channels, reviewers and end users," Balsillie said during the company's earnings call.

RIM said it shipped 500,000 PlayBooks during the gadget's introductory quarter, a figure well above most expectations. Balsillie said that the PlayBook's sell-through for the quarter--the number of devices actually sold to end users, rather than the number shipped to retailers--was "good," but he declined to provide specifics.

For more:
- see this RIM earnings call transcript

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