Thorsten Heins
Thorsten Heins, CEO of troubled smartphone maker BlackBerry Ltd.

Published: April 30th, 2013

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

That was BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins, in an interview with the Bloomberg news service on Monday. Now, I like what Heins has been doing at the helm of Research in Motion/BlackBerry in the last year-plus. He’s showed patience with product releases despite shareholder and analyst pressure. He’s steered company focus back toward the enterprise market where the company has differentiators that set it apart from the rest of the smart phone market. And, for the most part, he’s been saying the right things.

But declaring the tablet dead in five years? That smacks of sour marketing grapes. RIM/BlackBerry ceded that element of the mobile market to Apple and Samsung with the failure of the PlayBook, RIM’s own take on the tablet that was widely slammed for being too reliant on a tethered BlackBerry for full functionality. Heins has declared that RIM will be the uncontested leader in the mobile market in five years. Without a tablet in the product stable, RIM can only be the leader if the tablet is irrelevant.

What’s the alternative? “Maybe a big screen in your workspace, but not a tablet as such. Tablets themselves are not a good business model.” Bad business models don’t sell 52.5 million units in Q4 of 2012 or have 78.4 per cent year-over-year growth. And what’s that big screen connected to? A Bluetooth rig so you can thumb-type on it with your BlackBerry?

Tablets will not be irrelevant in five years’ time. “Workspace” is a fluid notion, and mobility a critical characteristic. So that screen had better be mobile, and had better do more than display the work of another device.

Heins is understandably leery of a tablet market where he’s outgunned, behind the curve and saddled with a dubious legacy. But if BlackBerry is going to be the leader in the market in five years, it’s not going to happen without a tablet. And for what it’s worth, I think the BlackBerry 10 OS running on a tablet would be, with apologies to Steve Jobs, “magical.”

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