The End of Tablets? BlackBerry Thinks So


Apparently, BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins thinks tablets are no good. Well, not exactly, but it's understandable, given that his company's Playbook tablet has sold just under 2.5 million units since its launch. Compare that to Apple , which sold 19.5 million iPads in the calendar year first quarter (FY Q2) of this year. It is an interesting comment though, to say that tablets are not long for this world, given the tremendous impact that would have on today's leading tech companies. Why does Heins hate tablets, and where is the future headed instead?

No tablet for you!
Blackberry had been rumored to be developing a sequel to the ill-fated Playbook, but it appears that may not be the case. At the Milken Institute Conference this week, Heins stated, "In five years, I don't think there will be a reason to have a tablet anymore." Naysayers may immediately discount the comment, and I can't say that they're wrong. However, I do see Heins' point and can't help but remember the ongoing decline of PCs.

What investors should actually take away from this isn't that Heins thinks a 7-inch or 10-inch screen device has no place in our lives, it's that a handheld touch PC is still, at its core, a PC. The iPad, Android, and Windows tablets are just mini-versions of what we had years ago. The future, according to Heins, is a true all-in-one device. This is not a novel idea, but it does give clarity to his company's goals.

BlackBerry's tomorrow
"In five years, I see BlackBerry to be the absolute leader in mobile computing. ... I want to gain as much market share as I can, but not by being a copycat," said Heins. I know that most Apple and Google fans -- and maybe everyone else -- will laugh off that statement, but they shouldn't. Apple and Google certainly seem further along, given their tablets and smartphones, but maybe Heins sees this as initial legwork his company didn't have to do. The end game, at least for now, is to have a phone-based product that accomplishes all of our computing needs. We ultimately don't want a tablet and a smartphone.

BlackBerry's Z10 device did not hit the sales targets bulls were looking for, but the physical keyboard-enhanced Q10 appears to be tracking very well in its early launch, according to management. BlackBerry's turnaround thus far, given the odds of recovery, has been very impressive, in my opinion.

Investors should keep in mind what Heins said at the conference. With Microsoft pouring resources into its catch-up game with the Surface tablet, it's unsettling that the device may be a good answer to an old problem. Apple's iPad, a huge part of the company's sales and 46% of the tablet market share, may need to find a way to merge with the iPhone. The only companies that seem to have already headed in the direction of "phablets" are Google and Samsung, with products such as the Galaxy Note.

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