BlackBerry CEO finally clarifies tablet strategy – there is none

May 2, 2013
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It’s very hard to be both, that’s why Jobs and Cook worked well as a team when the latter was focused strictly on operations.

So what to make of BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins who appears to have done a decent job of righting the sinking BlackBerry ship, but has a curious take on the future of mobility.

If you missed it, Heins predicted earlier this week that the market for tablets is headed for a fall:

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

So often today’s CEOs parse their words carefully, surrounded by handlers who make sure the boss doesn’t say anything that might effect the company’s stock price. For journalists, the blandness makes it hard to find anything these folks say that has an edge to it or is so measured as to be meaningless.

From that perspective, kudos to Heins for having something original to say. I’m not sure I’ve heard such a pointed comment from a tech CEO since Apple’s Jobs famously (and correctly) said Adobe’s Flash had to go.

Time will tell if Heins has it right. Asked about it, several speakers at this week’s Tablet Strategy conference found the comments puzzling at a time when tablet sales are booming and most research firms are predicting future growth for years to come as higher volumes lead to cheaper component costs and lower cost models as well as a wide array of form factors. In other words, the tablet revolution is just getting started. 

Bye bye PlayBook

BlackBerry of course fumbled its first tablet entry, the ill-fated PlayBook. Heins has been coy about whether the company will release future versions or entirely new tablets.

He has said the company won’t do another tablet until it can figure out a way to bring out a profitable model – an increasingly hard challenge in this era of cutthroat tablet price competition.

For now, the PlayBook is getting kind of rejuvenated by an upgrade to the company’s latest BB10 software. But don’t hold your breath waiting for PlayBook II.

When BlackBerry’s CEO says there will be no market for tablets in five years, that’s a clear signal to me that the company is getting out while the getting is good.

BlackBerry essentially created the smartphone market and it looks to me like that’s where the company is placing all its bets going forward. Heins vision is to take the company back to the future and for a company fighting for its life, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. 


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