Mass Playbook price cut underscores RIM trouble

Every single Playbook model, from the 16 GB version to the one with 64 GB, are now officially priced at $299.

Previously, the 16 GB model retailed for $499, the 32 GB one for $599, and the 64 GB version for $699.

This massive, sweeping price cut does two things – first, it proves that adding a few more gigabytes to a device doesn’t really cost the manufacturer that much more.

But second, and more importantly, it underscores the difficulty Research in Motion has had in selling its flagship tablet device.

If the $299 price still seems high to you, you’ve probably seen the Playbook sold at that price or lower, from retailers who are also frustrated at the sluggish sales levels.

The Playbook has faced many problems. At the apex is the fact that it is a Blackberry product and Blackberry is by all accounts a dying brand.

But RIM didn’t do itself any favors when it failed to include the most basic features, like a calendar, e-mail, or Blackberry Messenger app, in the Playbook unless you were tethered to a Blackberry phone.

In addition, price levels were on par with the iPad, and we’ve already seen that you can make the most awesome non-iPad tablet, but if consumers see the iPad and something else at the same price, they’ll buy an iPad.

Thanks to a firmware update, the Playbook now does offer the functionality it should have from day one, and this latest price cut will make it a bit more mass market friendly. But the question RIM faces with the device is one that it is facing with all of its recent strategies – is it too little, too late?