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RIM PlayBook only garnering half the prelaunch interest of iPad

An analyst's survey of 1,100 consumers found just 6 percent reporting they are "likely" to buy RIM's new playbook, less than half the number who said the same of Apple's iPad last February.

The survey, performed by Royal Bank of Canada Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky earlier this month after the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, indicates that buyers aren't simply attracted to tablet hardware specifications alone.

RIM's strongest card with its new PlayBook is the promise to deliver dual core CPU performance via its newly acquired QNX real time operating system. However, a major factor of the iPad's success wasn't hardware features but rather its familiarity with iPhone and iPod touch users and the third party developers building apps for it.

Developer interest in mobile platforms

Abramsky noted that "developer interest in PlayBook nearly doubled to 28% in January from 16% in September," citing figures compiled by Appcelerator and IDC of 2,235 mobile developers.

However, RIM's 28 percent interest figure is well behind the 74 percent who reported interest in coding for Android tablets and the 87 percent who said they were very interested in iPad.

Developer interest in iPad is equal to Android smartphones, with only the larger iPhone market reflecting greater interest among developers. Interest in the PlayBook came in below even the 38 percent who said they were very interested in the existing (and incompatible) BlackBerry OS and the 36 percent who expressed interest in Windows Phone 7.

Of all of the features that developers reported as being critical success factors for new Android tablets, 57 percent noted price of the hardware. However, RIM will be debuting its 7 inch PlayBook for the same price as Apple's full sized iPad, offering no advantage in that regard.

RBC's enthusiastic outlook for RIM

Abramsky noted that Appcelerator's developers were more likely consumer-oriented, saying, "we believe BlackBerry's popularity among enterprise developers is significantly higher." The firm expects RIM to sell 6 million PlayBooks in its first full year on the market and 4 million through the end of 2011; that's well ahead of the street consensus of 2-3 million sold in 2011.

RBC is a major investor in RIM, and the two partnered in 2008 with other Canadian investors to set up the BlackBerry Partners Fund to help foster the development new mobile applications. RBC's chief operating officer Barbaras Stymiest also sits on the RIM board of directors. The investment bank's analyst has historically taken an exuberant outlook on RIM's future prospects.