The internet is alight with criticism of Blackberry CEO Thorsten Heins’ comments regarding tablets as a “fad”, with plenty of scorn. The thing is, I’m not entirely sure that he’s entirely wrong.
No matter where you read it, it all comes back to a Bloomberg report of Heins speaking at the Milken Insitute conference in LA, where he’s reported to have said:
“In five years I don’t think there’ll be a reason to have a tablet anymore. Maybe a big screen in your workspace, but not a tablet as such. Tablets themselves are not a good business model.”
And the mocking has been wide and long, pointing out the relative failure of the Blackberry Playbook and the oodles of cash that Apple’s sitting on courtesy of iPad sales from a category it brought out of the doldrums where it had largely been since Microsoft first pitched the Tablet category more than a decade ago.
Still, I don’t think Heins is entirely wrong here, either, and that’s to do with a question of scale. Five years is a very long time in technology terms, and an awful lot can happen in that time. Indeed, five years ago, Blackberry itself was selling a whole lot more inventory, and clearly seen by Apple as a corporate target to take on with the iPhone. Nokia had big plans and even bigger sales. Tablets existed, but only really for specific vertical markets, not in wide circulation. I could go on.
Equally — and obviously — Heins is banging the same “mobile computing” drum that he’s been on about for some time, and the statement is consistent with his views on where this kind of device usage is going. He’s hardly going to say “Well, actually, we are clearly circling the drain, better buy some Bitcoins instead, huzzah!” or anything of the sort, now is he?
Lest I be accused of being on the Blackberry payroll, I’ll point out that I’m not saying that Heins is some kind of prophetic visionary that we should all slavishly follow. Indeed, at the Australian launch of the Blackberry 10 platform, he had notable difficulty in coming up with really compelling consumer reasons to switch to Blackberry, instead choosing to focus on the corporate and enterprise applications which still make up Blackberry’s core market. Tablets have their enterprise uses, but they’re clearly a consumer play. Perhaps he just doesn’t want to play there any more?