BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins seems to be among the most transparent executives in tech in terms of showing his hand regarding future product plans, which may be partly because he doesn’t have much to lose at this point. In an interview yesterday, he downplayed tablet computing in what looks to be an indicator that BlackBerry will drop the PlayBook, its own lame duck tablet and the first of its devices to sport a QNX-based operating system.
Heins should’ve stuck to specifics, however, as he went way overboard and came off as though he was losing touch with reality in the interview as quoted by Bloomberg, with broad sweeping statements like “In five years I don’t think there’ll be a reason to have a tablet anymore,” and “[t]ablets themselves are not a good business model.”
Tablets may not be a good business model for BlackBerry, which took huge writedowns on BlackBerry PlayBook inventory, were forced to run massive fire sales with price cuts of up to $ 400 to clear out inventory, and even finally discontinued the entry-level 16GB version entirely. By any real measure, the PlayBook was and is a failed product. But to say tablets won’t last five years, or that they aren’t a good business model requires that you completely ignore Apple’s tremendous success with the iPad, including the 19.5 million iPads it sold last quarter, an all-time record that came in well above analyst estimates.
Heins has recently made remarks that indicate BlackBerry may be experimenting with alternate device form factors, possibly taking a cue from hybrid gadgets like the Asus PadFone which combine a smartphone and tablet or mini-notebook style device in one. Once again, Heins said that he would need a BlackBerry tablet to be a unique device in an increasingly crowded market.
BlackBerry may have blown it on the PlayBook, but trash-talking tablets in general is worse than sticking your head in the sand: it makes the company look hopelessly out of touch. There’s definitely a lesson to be learned in the fact that Apple is the only company that’s really been able to succeed with a tablet device, but that lesson isn’t that the tablet market is a write-off entirely.