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SHOCK: RIM PlayBook outsells Apple iPad

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Canadian gadget emporium Future Shop sold more BlackBerry PlayBooks than iPads last week, indicating the end of Apple's dominance or at least lending some succour to RIM's investors.

The retail chain, which has 145 branches across Canada, isn't saying how many of either tablet it has sold, but tweeted its congratulations to RIM on creating the bestselling tablet computer of the week. RIM obviously wasted no time in telling the world.

Whether the iPad and the PlayBook can really be considered competitive products is open to debate. Future Shop sells both, but the cheapest iPad is over two-and-a-half times the price of a PlayBook (519 Canadian dollars, compared to 199 for a PlayBook) and they appeal to very different markets.

More likely this jump in sales is down to BlackBerry fans who've been waiting for more-positive reviews before trousering a tablet-size device. Version two of the BlackBerry OS was rolled out onto PlayBooks last month and has been well received, trigging a latent demand, but that doesn't bring new customers into the fold.

It's also worth remembering that RIM is a Canadian company; it has a presence in the country that engenders some nationalistic appeal, so Canadian sales shouldn't be taken too seriously.

The US government is certainly leaning away from RIM, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration saying earlier this month that it would be dumping 3,000 BlackBerrys, while the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives just told Politico magazine it plans to swap out 3,800 of them, mainly for iPhones.

Retail sales are all very well, and welcome, but it's those big customers that are bankrolling the handset innovation RIM needs to sustain. Lose too many of those and the company can quickly slip behind before we even get the chance to see what the new OS will look like on a phone. ®

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