BlackBerry chief: Tablet margins too thin to tackle Apple head on

BlackBerry chief: Tablet margins too thin to tackle Apple head on

Summary: BlackBerry will be thinking about profit if it launches new tablets — but don't expect any in the short term.


While BlackBerry is continuing to shift existing models of the Playbook, the company will tackle slates differently next time by taking them beyond the "puristic tablet experience" according to its CEO.

Admitting it was a mistake to launch the first BlackBerry tablet without native email or sufficient apps, chief Thorsten Heins told the Australian Financial Review he wouldn't want to repeat those errors, but will be aiming for profits.

"I wouldn't want to do it the same way again, if I do something around tablets, I want it to be really substantial and meaningful, and quite frankly it would need to be profitable as well," he said.

According to the CEO, there's no compelling business case for taking another run at the tablet market any time soon, the AFR reported. BlackBerry hasn't officially announced whether it will launch any tablets featuring its BlackBerry 10 operating system, although rumours the company has a 10-inch device in the works surfaced last year.

Any renewed efforts by BlackBerry to refresh or expand its current line of seven-inch tablets that will come as low-cost devices in that size begin to take a great share of tablet spending. Unfortunately for BlackBerry, it hasn't gained as much from interest in the smaller screen as Android and Apple.

About half the tablets sold worldwide this year were below eight inches, according to IDC, while analyst firm Display Search recently noted that Apple may sell 55 million 7.9-inch iPad Minis in 2013 compared with 33 million larger 9.7-inch screen iPads.

In a dig to Apple — after Heins earlier this year conceded that the tablet business "is rather difficult" — he congratulated the Cupertino-based company for owning a market with very thin profits.

"I think the profit pool is very, very thin. Kudos to Apple, I think they really managed to own that space, so it doesn't make sense for me to just take this head on," he told the AFR.

"I need to figure out, for my enterprise customers, for my consumers, for my BB10 audience, what can I do that provides them a mobile computing experience in the form factor of a tablet, which goes beyond just the puristic tablet experience."

BlackBerry reported a surprising boost in tablet shipments last quarter, which had grown to 255,000, up from the 130,000 the quarter prior. The company attributed this to "promotional activity" in North America and some success with the Wi-Fi and 4G versions in North America and Europe.

Topics: BlackBerry, Apple, Hardware, Tablets

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • Are these guys for real?

    The Blackberry guy says Apple charges too little to make a profit; the guy above says Apple overprices. What planet do these people live on?
    Steve Nagel
  • Hmmmm

    The first Playbook wasn't made for prime time. The second one improved things.
    But now Apple has a problem. More and more fanbois and fangurls will end up buying the iPad mini over the full size because it is cheaper - but Apple makes more money by selling the full version.
    • Every company would love to have that "problem"

      Consumers buying up the iPad and now the iPad mini, making it the new bestseller. Didn't the same thing happen with the iPods? The cheaper iPod mini (nano) became the best selling iPod? Fanbois and fangurls bought more iPod nano's than full iPods? How was that a problem? Apple made up the margin in volume with everyone (every demographics) suddenly buying affordable iPods. Same thing will happen with the iPad mini.
      • Re: the iPad and now the iPad mini, making it the new bestseller.

        Somehow I don't think the Ipad Mini is selling wonderfully well. Just a hunch, based on the relative amounts of exposure it gets versus, say, the Asus Nexus 7 in the retailers' brochures that appear in my letterbox each week.