BlackBerry's new anti-tablet philosophy

Blackberry boss Thorsten Heins may be going against the data in saying that tablets will be out of the picture in five years. But executing on these kind of crazy ideas may be the path to BlackBerry's salvation.

BlackBerry boss Thorsten Heins has seemingly drawn a line in the sand when it comes to the future of tablets, telling Bloomberg that the form factor will be useless in five years.

Heins told Bloomberg in an interview that the consumers will inevitably lose interest in tablet computers and BlackBerry is reassessing if the form factor has any place in its roadmap to recovery.

“In five years I don’t think there’ll be a reason to have a tablet anymore,” Heins told Bloomberg.

“Maybe a big screen in your workspace, but not a tablet as such. Tablets themselves are not a good business model.”

That’s a bold prediction, especially when the current evidence indicates that tablets are here to stay for good. Gartner’s latest research points to tablet computers outselling PCs hands down, while IDC expects tablet shipments will surpass desktop PCs in 2013 and portable PCs in 2014.

According to IDC, the tablet market is expected to reach a new high of 190 million shipment units with year-on-year growth of 48.7 per cent while the smartphone market is expected to grow 27.2 per cent to 918.5 million units.

However, Heins’ aversion to tablets isn’t entirely without merit and at the very least offers hope that BlackBerry has a very clear and direct vision to recapturing its prominence in the mobile computing space.    

The BlackBerry Playbook, launched in 2011, was an unmitigated disaster for the company and accentuated how far the company had fallen behind the pack.

So, Heins’ assertion would suggest that there’s no room for tablets in BlackBerry’s revival. That’s not a bad thing because there’s no point for BlackBerry to chase Apple and Samsung’s tail, especially when Heins’ number one goal is to recapture the business/enterprise market.

While tablets are starting to make inroads in the enterprise space, they are still primary a consumption device. Making a tablet your primary productivity device is still a pipe dream and current attempts to do so only risk sacrificing the functionalities that make a tablet so good in the first place.

Also, BlackBerry just doesn’t have the muscle to compete with Apple when it comes to hardware and Heins is patently aware of that.

The BlackBerry CEO told Bloomberg in a separate interview that the only way to make money on hardware is to have a “service value proposition” on top of the hardware.

As far as Heins is concerned, smartphones will continue to be at the heart of our mobile computing needs. And that’s a message he has been preaching for some time now. The one device to run everything mantra is very dear to Heins and while it may be at odds with Apple and Microsoft’s experience, BlackBerry needs to approach the market with a brand new philosophy, no matter how crazy it sounds.

In fact, the idea of smartphones powering PC Workstations , replacing laptops, desktops and tablets, isn’t that radical either.

As Computerworld’s Jared Newman points out the idea of modular computing isn’t new but successful implementation will only happen if all the pieces (better wireless connectivity, stronger battery life, purpose-build software) fall into place.  

The twin ideas of modular computing and a services-based model designed to profit from the ‘Internet of Machines’ could prove to be BlackBerry’s saviours. And a tablet could just well be extraneous to Heins as he executes his long-term strategy. 

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