John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

BlackBerry’s Heins: Tablets Are Just Temporary in Mobile Evolution

BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins has long said the company won’t compete in the tablet space unless it can do so profitably. While BlackBerry insists it remains committed to the tablet market, Heins has repeatedly made it clear that the level of that committment depends largely on the performance of its BlackBerry 10 platform, and the tablet’s priority in the mobile space. And in his latest remarks on the subject, Heins seems bullish on the former and bearish on the latter.

“In five years I don’t think there’ll be a reason to have a tablet anymore,” Heins said in an interview yesterday at the Milken Institute conference, according to Bloomberg. “Maybe a big screen in your workspace, but not a tablet as such. Tablets themselves are not a good business model.”

They certainly haven’t been a good business model for BlackBerry. The company’s PlayBook tablet was unquestionably a failure, one that forced it to take a $485 million charge to write down unsold inventory in 2012. But for other companies — most notably Apple — the tablet market has been quite lucrative. In Apple’s last quarter, the company shipped 19.5 million iPads — 7.7 million more than it did the year prior.

So what’s Heins’s problem with tablets? There would seem to be two. The first: BlackBerry doesn’t have a good angle on the tablet business yet — something it needs to compete in a market where profits can be tight. The company is reevaluating its approach, because right now the tablet market is a lousy place for BlackBerry and pretty much any company not named Apple or Samsung.

The second: The mobile computing space is evolving very quickly, and Heins seems to have doubts about the viability of tablets going forward. Now, regardless of how much credence you lend that view, you’ve got to concede that five years is an awful long time in tech; few companies know that better than BlackBerry, which saw its early lead in smartphones whittled away in short order by Apple and Google. Who knows? Maybe some new technology will emerge in the next few years that will kick the legs out from under the tablet market. Sounds implausible now, but a few years back, the BlackBerry was widely known as the CrackBerry, and no one was using iPhones.

In any event, BlackBerry’s official position is not to read too, too much into Heins’s dismissal of the tablet market.

“The comments that Thorsten made yesterday are in line with previous comments he has made about the future of mobile computing overall, and the possibilities that come with a platform like BlackBerry 10,” BlackBerry spokesman Alex Kinsella told AllThingsD. “We continue to evaluate our tablet strategy, but we are not making any shifts in that strategy in the short term. When we do have information about our PlayBook strategy, we will share it.”

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik