RIM: 1M Playbooks Will Be Shipped Q1 As Co. Plays Down Weak Battery Claims

The PlayBook hasn’t hit the shelves yet but RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) is bullish on how fast it will move once it does: the company is apparently looking to ship one million units out in the first quarter alone.

According to a report on the Taiwan tech site Digitimes, RIM has placed an order with Quanta Computer to manufacture one million PlayBook tablets for shipment in the first quarter of 2011.

This is by no means a measure of how well the device will sell. But, if true, it is a sign of how many PlayBooks RIM believes it could sell.

However, as a point of comparison, Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) sold 7.4 million iPad devices in its first six months of launch, generating $4.96 billion in sales. So while the PlayBook shipping numbers look promising, it is still a ways behind what the current market leader is pulling in actual sales.

The Digitimes report says the first version of the PlayBook will initially be a WiFi-only tablet — but some say it will have an option to tether it to your BlackBerry, if you happen to use one — with a 3G edition coming shortly after.

RIM has officially announced a deal with Sprint (NYSE: S) to jointy offer a WiMax-enabled version of the tablet with the operator by Q2 2011. At the time of the announcement RIM said this would be the first PayBook with wide-area wireless connectivity.

The Digitimes report compares PlayBook’s numbers with Motorola’s Xoom: Compal Electronics is going to be shipping between 700,000 and 800,000 WiFi/3G Xoom devices at the same time, with an LTE version coming out with Verizon Wireless in Q2.

RIM has a great shot at success with the PlayBook: with a sea of me-too Android devices in the market, it’s a chance for something different in the market, and reviews so far have been enthusiastic about the device. But the PlayBook has had some publicity knocks before it has even hit the market:

Shaw Wu, an analyst at Kaufman Bros., noted that it will have a limited battery life, particularly compared to the iPad’s average of 10 hours.

He said that this is down to the PlayBook support of Flash, to the QNX OS that wasn’t designed for wireless devices, and to RIM’s inferior power management implementations (compared to Apple’s A4 “system on a chip”).

RIM has countered this, saying that it is aiming for the battery to cover a full day of work.

The drive to make the PlayBook an attractive product is not just about the performance of the device itself.

RIM is also still pushing for more apps to be available at launch. At a developers’ conference in Bali this week, RIM announced that it would once again extend the deadline for its free PlayBook offer to developers that create a qualifying app for the device.

The company also launched an enhanced WebWorks Platform to develop apps that work across both the PlayBook and RIM’s smartphone devices.