Is There Pent-Up Demand for RIM's PlayBook?

| About: BlackBerry Ltd. (BBRY)

Research in Motion (RIMM) reports its fiscal fourth quarter results next week, and analysts are largely focused on the launch of the PlayBook and sales expectations.

RIM’s earnings results will land next Thursday. The general view is that the quarter will be solid due to strong international sales. The standout across reports is the PlayBook and QNX (RIM’s latest operating system) handsets.

We’ll dive into the numbers next week, but the optimism about the PlayBook is the main topic today. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that RIM’s decision to make the PlayBook tether to the BlackBerry for email is being spun as a positive.

Jefferies analyst Peter Misek noted:

We expect the Playbook launch in April. We were optimistic about the Playbook but were still surprised at how positive the feedback has been from the channel and retailers regarding the product. Many view the tethering as a positive since it does not require a separate data plan, and enterprises see it an easy fit into their existing security and device management protocols.

If Misek’s take is right — the PlayBook is really a companion to an established enterprise base — RIM could have a hit. Keep in mind the tablet game right now is all about the enterprise. Companies like Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) and RIM are going to be more focused on business tablets instead of duking it out with Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad 2 and a bunch of Android (NASDAQ:GOOG) rivals.

CIBC analyst Todd Coupland was also generally upbeat about the PlayBook and acknowledged that RIM shares are trading based on expectations for the tablet. Coupland is expecting RIM to ship 1 million Playbooks in the May quarter.

Oppenheimer analyst Ittai Kidron said that the PlayBook was RIM’s biggest wild card. He cut his unit estimates for the PlayBook to 1.5 million for fiscal 2012 ending in February. Oddly enough, Kidron cited Motorola’s (NYSE:MMI) challenges with the Xoom as one reason to lower PlayBook estimates. I’d argue that Motorola’s troubles would help RIM.

In any case, all eyes are on RIM’s PlayBook.