Verizon wishy-washy on RIM Playbook support

Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) is running into more problems with the launch of its PlayBook tablet, with Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) remaining noncommittal about selling the device, which went on sale Tuesday.

RIM is currently selling a Wi-Fi-only version of the tablet through numerous retailers in the U.S. and Canada, including Best Buy, Office Depot and OfficeMax. The BlackBerry maker said in March that it expected Verizon and AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) to join Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) this summer as distribution partners for the device, which received largely negative reviews and debuted to modest lines. Now that strategy seems to be in question.

"We're still evaluating the PlayBook and haven't made a decision on whether we're going to distribute it," Verizon spokeswoman Brenda Raney told the Wall Street Journal. A RIM spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In addition to the uncertainty about Verizon's commitment, AT&T customers are contending with issues related to the product. AT&T is not yet allowing subscribers to download the BlackBerry Bridge software needed to establish a connection between a BlackBerry device and the tablet; the connection is needed for users to view email on the tablet, since it does not ship with a native email client. However, AT&T is still testing the software. The carrier also has not decided whether to charge customers for the Bridge service, since it is similar to tethering a phone to a laptop; AT&T charges $25 for 4 GB of data for BlackBerry tethering.

Early estimates of PlayBook opening day sales vary, but analysts at RBC Capital markets pegged opening day sales at 50,000 units, based on checks with retailers. RBC said that debut is stronger than the opening day sales for Motorola Mobility's (NYSE:MMI) Xoom or Samsung's GalaxyTab, and the firm estimated that RIM could ship around 500,000 PlayBook units in its first quarter of availability.

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Reuters article
- see this Street Insider article

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