BlackBerry CEO predicts demise of tablets within five years

By any account, the BlackBerry PlayBook - the company's first attempt at creating a mainstream tablet - was a disaster. It launched to mediocre reviews, was widely panned for launching with glaring omissions such as a native email client (relying instead on accessing email via a tethered BlackBerry handset), and sold in such tiny numbers (before 'fire sale' offers that, in some cases, saw devices being literally given away) that the company was forced to write down a $485m one-off charge to resolve the thorny issue of unsold inventory of the device. 

It's perhaps unsurprising that BlackBerry isn't in any rush to get back into the tablet game. But what may raise an eyebrow or two are comments made by the company's CEO, Thorsten Heins, with regards to the future of the tablet market as a whole. 


Who needs a tablet when you've got a BlackBerry phone for all of your "mobile computing"?

Speaking at the Milken Institute conference in Los Angeles yesterday, Heins asserted his belief that the days of the tablet are numbered, implying that devices such as Apple's phenomenally successful iPad and other rivals like Samsung's Galaxy Tab range will soon be a thing of the past. "In five years, I don't think there'll be a reason to have a tablet anymore," he told conference delegates. "Maybe a big screen in your workspace, but not a tablet as such. Tablets themselves are not a good business model."

As Bloomberg reports, Heins reiterated his ambitions for BlackBerry in the mobile space, as the company continues the rollout of its two BlackBerry 10 launch phones. "In five years, I see BlackBerry to be the absolute leader in mobile computing - that's what we're aiming for. I want to gain as much market share as I can, but not by being a copycat." 

Whether BlackBerry can achieve superiority in "mobile computing" with only smartphone handsets remains to be seen, but this isn't the first time that we've heard Heins make comments with reference to that term. A few weeks ago, he revealed that the company had thought long and hard about adopting Windows Phone and Android for future BlackBerry products, but decided against them because they are "not mobile computing platforms". BlackBerry's vision in that regard, according to Heins, is to support users in being able to carry out all of the same tasks on their phone as they would on a PC. 

Source: Bloomberg | Image via BlackBerry

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Tablets might be dead because if phablets - Blackberry or not........with Samsung rumored to have phones with 10" screens coming.....I think even the Note 3 is going to be 6" - is there a need for tablets then? I dunno - not for me perhaps.

sure tablets will die in fav of better smart phones and phablet's but one this is 100% and that is blackberry will be no leader, if anything filing for administration.

Considering where BlackBerry's been (and where it is right now), having the CEO say things like this doesn't do anything to inspire confidence. I'd argue the opposite in fact.

whether tablets die in 5 years or not, in those 5 years, many many many millions will be spent buying tablet devices in the meantime.

I don't think tablets will die though. or rather, they probably will sort of, eventually they will turn into the next level of small form factor hand held computer. what that is... who nows at this point. wearable computers with glass like overlay display... maybe...

I am not a massive fan of tablets but let's face it they are here to stay. It is RIM that are sliding into irrelevance (apart from British chavs for some reason who have a real boner for them)

There might not be a RIM in 5 years if he keeps it up. I think tablets are here to stay, but I'm sure that we'll switch mediums and they will become smaller and more powerful. Graphine foldy tablet ? Two please.

what does he care. he'll be retiring with millions in the bank while all the people flaming him today are going to be enslaving at their cubes hoping for the afternoon off.

he wins.

I can see that. I have 4 of them and I hardly use any of them. When ever I use one I just get annoyed. Like responding to a post on Neowin. I just go use a laptop.

Not really! A tablet with a phone integrated nicely and it would be a hot seller. Look at the Galaxy note 2. A few tweaks and changes, that phone would really catch on.

He's right. Tablets will be dead in a couple of years. Everything will be hybrids, convertibles, and notebooks with touch displays.

Well with the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, I could see this as a possibility. If Apple released a 5.5 inch iPhone, I know many who would be all over that. If Nokia released a 5.5 inch Windows phone, many would line up for it also.

this guy is a nut. the reason people buy tablets is because the screen is bigger than their phone. now whether in 5 years it will be a tablet,a hybrid, or some other form factor, it will still exist no question because the screen on the phone is small.

And he said the the bigger screen will still exist but it will take on a different form from what currently exists.

Apple's latest downward spike in profit margins kinda supports his stance that the tablet market is not the best business model. They are the only ones with success in that market and even there they are being squeezed.

he said the bigger screen will still exist "in the workplace". he means consumers wont be using tablets,instead they'll be using a blackberry phone. im saying the reason tablets exists is because the screen of the phone is too small. the OS is still pretty much the phone OS on ipad and android,but the screen is bigger because consuming content on a phone is not satisfying.

vcfan said,
he said the bigger screen will still exist "in the workplace". he means consumers wont be using tablets,instead they'll be using a blackberry phone. im saying the reason tablets exists is because the screen of the phone is too small. the OS is still pretty much the phone OS on ipad and android,but the screen is bigger because consuming content on a phone is not satisfying.

This guy is spot on. Me personally the only smartphone I have been able to use is the Samsung Galaxy Note. It's huge. Every single other smartphone on the market might as well be a brick. When your thumb covers 50% of the screen surface it's pretty impossible to do anything with your phone.

IDK, he could be right with how popular phablets are getting. I could see tablets just merging with cell devices, they're already almost the same size.

He may be right. Google Glass will be able to offer superior functionality in a more practical form, while phones will continue to encroach into the tablet market. Meanwhile devices like the Surface will continue to blur the line between computer and tablet. Five years is a long time in terms of computing.

well, if they could make a strong durable tablet that can also be used a (smart-)frisbee ...

Edited by Torolol, Apr 30 2013, 2:43pm :

There are other things to consider in this as well. For instance, Bell Canada (largest phone company in Canada) has been shifting it's field workers from laptops and such to other things. They've currently moved to the Samsung Galaxy Note II as it's larger than a regular phone and smaller than a tablet. Makes for extreme mobility when it comes to the kind of work they do. I don't think tablets are going anywhere any time soon. They are absolutely in their infancy.

hmmmm....... Interesting to think about actually. Especially without enough 'power' for the workplace, tablets are still very much in their infancy. What is one of the best "work ready" tablets, the Surface Pro(?) and look at how quickly that took off. There is still a ways to go in terms of practicality and more importantly efficiency with battery life. At least for the near future, I don't see powerful desktops disappearing from the workplace, but the notion of a just as equally powerful and portable "work ready 'desktop' tablet" is not really such a far-fetched occurrence.

And I have heard lots say the desktop is dead...

Just another prediction is all. Lots of famous predictions in the past that have/never came to pass. Or just an attention grabber to get people talking about BB

Studio384 said,
What, the world said exactly the same about the netbook: "It will never disappear!"

And look now.

There is a difference though, tablets are not sold or used in the same way one thinks about a PC and thus a netbook which is just a super cheap but also super crappy PC.

The netbook was never seen as a pure consumption device, plus touch changes things as well.

Studio384 said,
What, the world said exactly the same about the netbook: "It will never disappear!"

And look now.

Did they? I always thought they were fairly impractical, and consumers seemed to agree.

Now tablets, on the other hand, are practical, and *popular*.

Most tablets will be replaced by hybrids, like the Surface + touch/type cover, Samsung Smart PC, Asus Vivotab, Asus Taichi... these kind of devices will get cheaper and better.

No point in a limited tablet when you can have a full PC + tablet + laptop in one device.

W32.Backdoor.KillAV.E said,
Most tablets will be replaced by hybrids, like the Surface + touch/type cover, Samsung Smart PC, Asus Vivotab, Asus Taichi... these kind of devices will get cheaper and better.

No point in a limited tablet when you can have a full PC + tablet + laptop in one device.

I do think that a part of the market is interested in such devices. Something that you can take with you, has a detachable keyboard but also the option to connect with a large monitor at home.

But at the same time tablets in its current formfactor are more then enough for many consumers. Those that rarely do more then surf, write email and check facebook can do so on an iPad mini or even cheaper 7'' tablets. And I think this group will be in the majority.

As said by others the netbook comparison doesnt hold up. Netbooks are disappearing because tablets are better for their intended purpose. The business market has used netbooks for much more but even for them a tablet-PC such as the Surface is a better option. However most netbooks were sold to people who just used it to surf the web. They are now getting tablets instead.

So I think tablets are here to stay and will even replace desktops as the main computer for consumption.

W32.Backdoor.KillAV.E said,
Most tablets will be replaced by hybrids, like the Surface + touch/type cover, Samsung Smart PC, Asus Vivotab, Asus Taichi... these kind of devices will get cheaper and better.

No point in a limited tablet when you can have a full PC + tablet + laptop in one device.


Convertible Tablet PC were/are devices with the power of a PC and usable as laptops. Of course more expensive than a "Media Tablet".

Mordkanin said,

Did they? I always thought they were fairly impractical, and consumers seemed to agree.

Now tablets, on the other hand, are practical, and *popular*.

How is a tablet any more practical than a netbook? They both don't really do much except you can actually type something on a netbook.

mrp04 said,

How is a tablet any more practical than a netbook? They both don't really do much except you can actually type something on a netbook.

Test #1: Try to browse the web with one finger in your netbook.

Test #2: Try to read a book comfortably in your netbook

Test #3: Hold your netbook in one hand and your tablet in the other. Wich one weights more?

Really I can see this happening easily. Mobile phones will take-over People carry their phones EVERYWHERE. Much more practical to have one device that can act as your hub to everything.

suprNOVA said,
Really I can see this happening easily. Mobile phones will take-over People carry their phones EVERYWHERE. Much more practical to have one device that can act as your hub to everything.

There is a large segment of the population that can't do much more on a smartphone than make phone calls because the interface is too restrictive.

It's fare more likely that cellphones as we know them will disappear and only tablets will remain.

Studio384 said,
What, the world said exactly the same about the netbook: "It will never disappear!"

And look now.

Who said that? netbook was a stop gap measure until tablets got up to speed. Quite frankly the only valid point the CEO has made is the demise of tablets in context to the rise of hybrid devices such as the Surface in which case he is right but in a rather inaccurate way.

Mr Nom Nom's said,

Who said that? netbook was a stop gap measure until tablets got up to speed. Quite frankly the only valid point the CEO has made is the demise of tablets in context to the rise of hybrid devices such as the Surface in which case he is right but in a rather inaccurate way.


What do you mean with "Hybrid device"? To me the Surface is a classic "Slate Tablet PC"; even the Lenovo Helix, the one I am waiting for, is a kind of "Convertible Tablet PC".

mrp04 said,

How is a tablet any more practical than a netbook? They both don't really do much except you can actually type something on a netbook.

Are you serious? What about handwriting capabilities? This is, IMO, what a Tablet PC is all about. And yes I can type as well because I use a Convertible one.