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Unsold PlayBook inventory costs RIM $485 million

Research in Motion announced on Friday that its inability to sell PlayBook tablets to consumers has forced the company to take a $485 million charge.

The mostly non-cash inventory provision is yet another bad sign for the PlayBook, which has failed to gain any traction in the tablet market dominated by Apple. Retailers began a fire sale of the touchscreen device last month, slashing as much as $300 off the price of the PlayBook in an effort to move inventory.

The PlayBook sold just a half-million units in the first quarter of availability, but dropped to 250,000 the following quarter. In the third quarter, sales dipped to just 150,000.

However, RIM has reiterated that it is committed to the PlayBook, and the company remarked that deep discounts on the hardware, selling it for as little as $199, have spurred sales.

In addition to poor sales of the PlayBook, RIM warned investors on Friday that it is seeing "lower sell-through and demand" of its products, which will affect not only its third quarter, but also the company's fourth quarter. Accordingly, RIM has lowered its fiscal 2012 earnings per share outlook, as it no longer expects to meet its $5.25 to $6.00 EPS guidance.

Analyst Mike Abramsky with RBC Capital Markets said while RIM's smartphone shipments and gross margins are in line with expectations, the company's product mix has shifted toward devices with lower average selling prices. In addition, RIM is seeing sell-through of its hardware deteriorate, and it expects fourth-quarter shipments to be down sequentially.

In contrast, Apple is expected to be in the midst of its strongest quarter ever, riding high on the launch of the iPhone 4S. Apple executives said in October that they expect to set new records for both iPhone and iPad sales in the current holiday quarter.