Thorsten Heins (Photo credit: Official BlackBerry Images)
I am still not a convert to tablets. I tried out the iPad and found it to be no more than the most expensive Twitter client I have ever used. I tested Android alternatives and still found myself doing no more than watching a bit of iPlayer in bed – oh and tweeting about it.
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But this is all personal choice and, whether I like them or not, I cannot ignore how these slates have been sweeping across the nation.
You can’t get on a tube carriage, a train or a plane without seeing a number of these devices and whilst the iPad may have been the first to take off, I have recognised a raft of Kindles, Googles and even the odd HP tab whenever I leave the house.
Yet, the buzz today in the mobile space has been the head of BlackBerry denying tablets had a future. In an interview with Bloomberg, Thorsten Heins predicted the form factor would be dead in five years, saying they “are not a good business model.”
Of course, a lot of people have leapt onto the fact BlackBerry’s own attempt at a tablet, the PlayBook, bombed dramatically, despite being a quite shiny piece of kit. Perhaps he just meant it wasn’t a good business model for his firm to pursue, especially with all the competition out there.
But senior people within BlackBerry have continued to hint at me about a BlackBerry 10-based tablet hitting the shelves in the not so distant future, so surely that can’t be right?
Maybe Heins meant for the general enterprise customer, tablets are not the best fit. With this, I mostly agree. I still much prefer working on a laptop with a full keyboard, especially for long periods of time as the majority of stands are flimsy and not good enough to rest on your lap when trying to be productive on the move.
But, then again, there are some particular verticals, like healthcare or retail for example, where they fit perfectly, perform well and really help cut costs, so he can’t want to miss that area of the market too?
It reminds me of the interview Rory Cellan Jones did with HP CEO Meg Whitman a few weeks ago. Here she said the firm was keen to do a smartphone again but she wouldn’t waste the company’s money on it until they knew they could really compete.
As I said then, the best way for HP to offer phones is aimed at the enterprise and as part of a full package of hardware and software a firm that big has the ability to bring to the table.
With BlackBerry, this is the only way it could make a success of tablets too. Some of the nifty enterprise features of the new BB10 operating system would work wonderfully on a slate device and with the added security and comfort a BlackBerry brings to big business, I still think they could get some market share there.
But, the window to do this is growing smaller and now it seems the CEO himself isn’t even backing it. If Heins really wants out of the tablet business and to stick to those QWERTY keyboards he has been touting this week with the Q10, I fear he has missed a trick.
And maybe tablets might not have a future in your head for the business world Mr. Heins, but take on ride on the Northern Line and tell me the future isn’t already here with tablets taking a significant seat at the table.