BlackBerry chief questions tablet category: Maybe he's not wrong

BlackBerry chief questions tablet category: Maybe he's not wrong

Summary: Thorsten Heins, CEO of BlackBerry, says tablets won't have much of a purpose in five years. Heins' comments were widely panned, but maybe he's not that far off base.


The reaction to BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins' comments about the future of tablets is unanimous: Most folks think Heins is way off. Perhaps it's worth pondering whether he's right to some degree.


Before you laugh at Heins note the direct quote via a Bloomberg interview:

In five years I don’t think there’ll be a reason to have a tablet anymore. Maybe a big screen in your workspace, but not a tablet as such. Tablets themselves are not a good business model.

Heins is basically saying that BlackBerry can't make money on tablets. In fact, it's unclear anyone beyond Apple can make money on tablets. The Android tablet race is headed to a commodity hardware market. There's just no room for BlackBerry. The leap Heins is taking is that tablets are a transition device and may suffer the same fate as netbooks in five years.

Today, it's hard to see how Heins' take can be on target. Tablets are flying off the shelves and poaching PC sales. Tablets must be the future right?

Not necessarily. It's possible that tablets are a step to another computing standard. Perhaps a hybrid device works. Perhaps there's some fold-up gadget that fits everyone's needs. Perhaps the smartphone is the real computing hub aided with virtual keyboards, docking stations and other items. Perhaps Google Glass steals some tablet thunder.

The reality is that we're lugging around more devices not less. Backpacks are typically filled with laptops, tablets and smartphones. There's an opportunity to collapse those categories.

In other words, laugh off Heins today. His tablet comments are obviously viewed through BlackBerry's PlayBook scarred lens. But it's worth pondering whether he has a point and in what conditions.

Topics: Mobility, BlackBerry, Tablets, Bring Your Own Device

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  • "Perhaps a hybrid device works"

    iPads are are iPhones, for that matter. And there is an iPod market. Android tablets *are* PCs. They are not post-anything, but real life portable personal computers. By the way, so are Android phones, which is why they qualify as Smartphones (and iPhones, for comparison, really do not).

    MS is hedging its bets, releasing both real PCs (Win8 Pro tablets) and their own version of the iPod (Win RT tablets). With respect to phones, they've decided that, like Apple, very smart feature-phones are what people want. They are likely to be wrong about that. There's a lot wrong with Android, but the fact that there is an app (or a hack, or a skin, or a...) to fix almost every problem means that there are ways to cover over almost all of Android's shortcomings.

    I think the true Smartphone -- that is, a pocket-able PC with telephony -- is the future of those devices and the PC is the future of the tablet space. iPads, RT devices, Playbooks, etc., are simply too limiting in the final analysis. Look for Windows 8 to dominate, Android and other Linux-based tablets to be a strong second, and iPads and the like to slowly fade.
    x I'm tc
    • Windows 8 to dominate…?

      Ok, if you want to say that that this is the future shouldn’t you be basing your predictions on current trends and facts?

      But let’s say we ignore the current sales numbers etc, so you are saying that everybody will want all the functionality they have on their desktops in the form of a tablet because…still I do not see why…it is easier to use it that way?

      I think you are as confused as Microsoft in relation to the tablets’ domain and usability patterns.
      • why?

        Because why settle for less than full Windows capability if there is no reason to?

        It will be up to the market competitors to make all other factors equal, but it's technologically possible. If they are able to do that customers can have it all so why not?
        • Because

          This is not why people buy their tablets for, I couldn’t care any less if I can run Office or Visual Studio on a tablet. Personally I want a tablet to be about 7” in size and have a UI that makes using this form factor easier. Windows is not that UI, Metro is a more appropriate UI, so is the iOS and Android UIs for this form factor.

          Because you can have a tablet running as a server, you are not going to buy 300 of those and run my datacentre with them.

          Now as far as the other competitors go, they do not have to do anything because they are controlling the market already, 48.2% for Apple and 43.4% for Android, so who cares what Microsoft does. Obviously the customers do not care about a desktop oriented tablet as they also have proven that they are not interested in a tablet oriented desktop so far.
          • huh?

            People don't want that because you personally don't want that? That's a bit self entered.
            Michael Alan Goff
          • Oh yes...

            I am the only one who do not like what Microsoft is producing at the moment…keep dreaming fan boy.

            And when you stop dreaming take the time to read "the numbers" that say I am in the majority of the users that think like that.
          • Could you link us to the numbers?

            I must have missed them last time you posted them.
            William Farrel
          • Hmm...

            What about reading my e-mail above…which says “48.2% for Apple and 43.4% for Android”…
          • Hmmm x2

            I mean post :P
          • Your argument regarding numbers

            Is clearly based on the NOW, not the future ie 5 years into the future which is what this discussion is about!
            What the NUMBERS are in five years is anyone's guess, surely your not telling us you know what the NUMBERS will be in 5 years time?
          • And if you read who did I reply to originally

            Then you will understand the argument better, i.e. that domination for Windows 8 is far from warranted based on the current numbers.

            Here is a secret for you, people use numerical facts and current data sets to make projections, it is called…real life.

            Now, if you want to believe on W8 domination in 5 years, why not. Keep the dream alive, make Ballmer a happy man.
          • Windows not appropriate but Metro UI is

            Last time I checked, Metro IS Windows.
          • Check again

            Windows has overlapping…windows, Metro has tiles.
          • Translation -

            "Microsoft produces a tablet that can do what iOs and Android can do, plus many more things those tablets can't, so it has to be marginalized at every opportunity.

            Since I see no value in it, there IS no value in it"
            William Farrel
          • Or even better

            “Microsoft is producing a tablet that nobody really wants, so the prediction that tablets will be extinct in a few years suits us perfectly. So we should embrace this message while at the same time repeat the Frankenstein-platform message.”
          • Really?

            It's been what 5 months, almost no OEM's are fully going yet. Personally, I think RT will go by the wayside, simply because the cost, full OS tablets are already cheaper so why get RT? I have a 7" tablet with Jelly Bean on it. It's nice, easy to use and convenient . . . but ultimately I don't use it that much. I want the laptop with me, I want full Facebook, Fantasy Baseball, etc.

            So I don't think tablets will be gone, but perhaps the definition of tablet might change.
          • Great tablets!

            Most of people use the Samsung or Apple tablets. They have very few features. My Korean made tablet that I bought in Brazil has many more features. It has HDMI port so I can watch netflix movies in my HDTV. USB and micro-USB port, slot expansion card and 1024x600. wifi and 3g usb modem compatible. So when I need a big screen I plug my tablet to my HDTV to play games, watch youtube videos or watch movies. When I just want a 7" screen I don't plug it to anything. :-)
          • Great tablets!

            I forgot to say. It costed 150 dollars. An IPAD
          • Great tablets

            I forgot to say. It costed 150 dollars. An IPAD costs 1.000 dollars here in Brazil.
          • GREAT TABLETS

            From my wonderful 7"Samsung (now getting a bit slow) ready for upgrade. What is the Brand/manufacturer of your $150 tab?

            I no longer carry a phone and only pack Dell laptop for backup and detailed mapping on off road travels in Africa.
            Had ipad, gave it to family member, rubbish.