Blackberry CEO calls tablets a fad, but probably because his company’s tablet failed


thosten heins blackberry ceo

Sometimes, CEOs of big tech companies have a way of just giving you something juicy to talk about. Such was the case with Blackberry CEO Thorsten Heins recently speaking on the current tablet wave that many companies are looking to ride. In an interview at the Milken Institute conference, Heins went on record saying he didn’t think there would be a reason to own a tablet in five years’ time, continuing by saying tablets are not a good business model.

It’s an odd statement from a CEO whose company tried its hand at the tablet game before. The Blackberry Playbook wasn’t half bad, and Blackberry actually hit the market with good timing, but for one reason or another it couldn’t capitalize. It forced Blackberry to take a hit on hundreds of millions of dollars worth of unsold inventory.

The CEO’s comments aren’t totally outlandish, of course. Folks like HTC and LG have had a taste of failure in the tablet market as well. But does that mean it’s a bad business model? ASUS and Samsung have attacked the tablet space with device strategies that seem to be working out quite well, with the two coming up with unique form factors and features that enhance the lives of many different people. From Wacom-enabled slates to netbook hybrids, these two companies have found a groove.

And don’t even get me started on Apple’s success — some manufacturers would kill to have the same success for phones that Apple has for the iPad line alone. Five years is quite a long time in technology, of course, so Thorsten Heins might very well be right. Then again, it wasn’t long ago that analysts thought (and some still think it) that Blackberry, at least as we know it, would be dead in just a few years’ time.

Anything can happen, and this tablet frenzy could certainly be supplanted by something more exciting and practical down the road. Still, the earth spins in the present, and Blackberry’s five-year foresight is quite useless to anyone but themselves. What do you think? Does Blackberry’s head honcho have a point or do you think he’s just sour because no one wanted to buy the Playbook?

[via Bloomberg]

Quentyn Kennemer
The "Google Phone" sounded too awesome to pass up, so I bought a G1. The rest is history. And yes, I know my name isn't Wilson.

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  1. The headline is so true! lol

  2. I can see his point in regards to maybe in the workplace but like everything else when the excitement is over it falls into its niche.

    1. I’ve seen a few companies starting to use tablets, especially for employees that tend to be on the road a lot. They take less space than a laptop and can be used pretty much anywhere.

  3. “Sour grapes” much, Thorsten?

    The CEO of Blackberry has no room to talk about anything other mobility companies are doing, with respect to their being successful or not, or if something is a trend or not. Considering how many boats Blackberry has missed, it’s so “not even funny” it’s hilarious.

  4. Here try to get notice.

  5. I almost agree with him. I think they are an evolutionary step to something bigger and better.

  6. I think he is somewhat right. In that the new tablets will be laptops, with removeable keyboards. Carrying out a tablet only with no hw keyboard isnt effective for business nor a replacement for a computer. The new touch screen Win8 laptops that turn into tablets undocked are the future. Android and Apple will be following suit and offering business class apps such as microsoft office. Until a laptop can be replaced with one, tablets are just luxury toys.
    I have a galaxy tab 10.1 and love it. But it doenst hold a candle to my mac book pro.

    1. If I remember correctly, about a year ago MS hinted that they’d be bringing Office to Android/iOS with a release sometime later this year, but that got pushed back to “sometime in 2014”.

      1. pretty cool, although quick office and like already work great.

    2. If you’re right, the market will just shift toward ASUS Transformer-type tablets on the android side. I had to switch over to my ThinkPad Tablet (1) with the keyboard folio and a bluetooth mouse last week after problems with my linux laptop — and even with android 4.0.3, it basically works. Word documents, dropbox integration (using dropsync) work well. Browsing is still weak mostly due to android, not the tablet hardware. The hardware and software will both get better.

      The transformer-style tablet market is solidly in android and iOS territory. Unless they can’t provide reasonable kit, there will be little incentive to switch to Windows for tablet/keyboard combos.

      Heins’ more general point that we have “peak tablet” now is wrongheaded and wrong on the details. The qualification above covers 10 inch and upward tablets. They are on a long-term growth curve. Heins misses the 7-inch market too, though.

      The size is a near-ideal balance between portability and screen control. Using a 7-8″ device in landscape mode allows your thumbs to just cross in the center, perfect for the smallest comfortable keyboard and for on-screen game controls. They are great for books as well. They are less good for web surfing and movies, fine for short videos.

      I had been hoping Blackberry would battle microsoft to be the third choice in the phone/tablet world, but with the continued cluelessness of their CEO, I’m just going to write them off as having a board of directors who are pathetic beyond help.

  7. Get me a good, light, thin convertible ultrabook, with a 13″ touchscreen anyday over any tab $500 tab. I actually find 7-8 inch tabs ok but they are worth about $100 for me to be usefull ($329-$500 for a iPad is laughs imo). 10inchers are tweeners for me. Not big enough for anything useful and not small enough to be portable and again $500-800 lol apple, u suck, those prices are outrageous.

    1. I’d like a transformer style tablet that you can get a “laptop dock” for, but I would want it to run full windows 8 or ubuntu.

      1. Asus makes that. It’s called the VivoTab.

        1. OMG that windows RT garbage? Complete rubbish. That Vivotab has so many bugs in it. Don’t even look at that thing.

          1. No there are two versions. The Windows 8 Asus tablet is called Vivotab while the Windows RT tab you’re complaining about is called the Vivotab RT.

            BlackBerry is a joke, tablets aren’t going anywhere except the Playbook which I am ironically typing on right now from the Jon, a fitting place for this lame tablet from BlackBerry. There’s literally no decent apps available for this device and that’s why it’s failing.

            With The tablet success Google, Apple, Samsung, Amazon, Asus and Barnes and Noble are having with iOS and Android these devices are going to only further flourish.

            With many companies today having revamped their websites touting the support and use of tablets, the slow sales of PCs and Macs having analyst predicting the demise of the PC. Then there’s Microsoft going full swing in not wanting to be left behind by making tablet and touchscreen computers the forefront of their Windows 8 operating system is a sure sign that Blackberry’s CEO just doesn’t get it.

            BTW, I love my Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet, it’s completely digitized my note taking at work where I can finally say goodbye to the stencil pad papers.

    2. 100.00? I think its you that sucks

  8. When one can’t say something positive regarding their product line,smear the competition.Whatever gets BB through the day,I suppose.

    On a side note,doesn’t this guy resemble BILL HADER from SNL?

  9. A fad? Kinda like a Blackberry phone was?!?!

    1. Hahaha “was.” So true.

  10. This coming from the head of a company that released a tablet without email and was surprised when it failed?

    Now, he may have a point, but not for any reason of actually coming to it logically. After living with the Galaxy Note 2, I don’t see any need to have a tablet anymore. The Note 2 fills that role for me and is also my phone. Why have two devices when I can just have the one? I do think that as such devices become more common, they will cannibalize a fairly significant section of the tablet market. At that point, the device categories / size ranges will be 6″ phone hybrid, 10″ tablet, 15″ laptop.

  11. Id say he is right in a way.

  12. As much as I love my phone I want a kick-ass tablet, when you’re at home or somewhere comfortably relaxing it can be nice to have the bigger tablet to use for gaming and video consumption and generally my phone is used for EVERYTHING so if I’m at home and can use a tablet, it saves battery for my phone. My logic may be a little flawed but I like the luxury of both devices but I DO NOT want a phablet phone. The Galaxy Note 2 is far too awkward for me and the 3 is gonna be even worse.

    1. Agreed. With the cloud and other integration between the same app on different devices, I can basically stop doing whatever I’m doing on my phone, set it down, and then pick up my Nexus 7 and continue doing everything I was just doing.

      I don’t agree about the size for the phone, though. 5 inches or so for phones has almost no drawbacks over 3.5 or 4 inch ones. Pockets, hands, bags all hold them about as well. They just look big.

      The biggest problem with my Note 1 is the battery life, then comes software and stability, and then the lack of waterproofing. All of these problems can be dealt with without making small, awkward phones. The phone just needs to be 13 or 14mm thick instead of 11. It needs a wider battery profile for this. Once the manufacturers overcome the battery challenge, 5 inches or so, what can be controlled in one hand, is going to be the ideal size for phones.

  13. I see tablets replacing laptops with what Microsoft attempted with that keyboard. They’re definitely more portable and convenient.

  14. Make a good tablet and OS for once and maybe itll sell ;)

  15. Don’t kill me on this… I read about this earlier today and what he also said was that the reason he saw tablets dying in five years is because everyone would be using smartphones for their computing needs.

    Might still be sour grapes, but I thought that should be included so it’s not totally out of context.

  16. Sorry, but… what is Blackberry?

  17. I can see this happening only because people will start to plug their phones into their monitors/TVs and use them as a full blown PC. I can ALMOST do that now with my Note 2 but I cant play Guild Wars 2 on it.

  18. He’s not the only person who think tablets are gimmicky, I’ve said it, and numerous others I’ve spoken to have said the same.

  19. I agree. I have a Nexus 10 that has a higher resolution than any computer I have, but web-browsing is very awkward and painful after a while so I don’t use it much anymore…

    1. You’re doing it wrong.

  20. I was a huge tablet sceptic when the first ipad came out. I just saw it as an overpriced, oversized iphone and generally a pointless device.

    I still wouldn’t get an ipad (or anything apple for that matter) but my opinion about tablets has changed.
    I have an Asus tf300t and it’s absolutely awesome.
    It’s all but replaced my windows laptop now.. Only thing it can’t do is play all the pc games I currently have.

    I can definitely see phones completely replacing PC’s and gaming consoles within the next 5 years for the average consumer though. In fact, I’d even bet on it happening.

  21. Doubtful, the market for 7 inch tablets pre-existed the iPad and Barnes&Noble proved it as soon as they put Android on an eReader and the device became a cult hit over night. That created the market for Amazon to produce the Kindle, and thus created the market for Google to produce the Nexus 7. Controlling content distribution and selling at price, or near at price tablets was the market then, is the market now and will be the market for the forseeable future as budget tablets enter the educational system and the third world. When even Apple breaks their monotonous business model in order to produce a cheaper, smaller tablet that says a lot about how much tractiong the tablet market really has, and that’s not even addressing the clear correlation between increasing screen sizes for phones and content consumption and the rise of the “phablet”

  22. Tablets are here to stay guaranteed! The market is huge and traditional desktops and laptops are beginning to decline. With all respect to Quentyn the Playbook was a half baked device. Two examples: Playbook was advertised to support Android apps, this functionality was missing at launch and was a very late add. Second: what is Blackberry known for? Security and Email. What was also missing from the Playbook at launch? A native email app?!?!? I think that’s the definition of half baked.

  23. Actually he is correct. Kinda… With the introduction of flexible screens and already in use cloud virtual sessions the way we see tablets today will change. Our 6 inch mobile devices which will be the standard will trifold from the center fold to a 10 inch screen. This will be the new tablet. Its all about mobile mobile mobile. Companies will no longer issue a desktop pc or laptop since they to will also go away as we are already seeing this happen today. A desk mat for keyboard and projection of any screen size will all that will be needed. With the addition of better smartwatches for short glances connecting us to our information world and maybe glass this is all you will need. So yes he is correct.

  24. One additional note.. your bluetooth headset will now become your phone that clips into your smartwatch band so you dont have to dig into your pockets or purse anymore. So the word iphone will need to be changed to information device, ID lets say. Using the word phone is old now. As for ID size as it relates to how we will use our smartwatches and headsets, when people talk about devices being too big and why you would want to hold to your ear. I laugh because if you are still holding your phone to your ear that would be my first question. That statement outdates you since headsets are much safer and convenient and as long as I can put my information device in my pocket it is not too big.

  25. at my we started to use android/ ipads ease of use and light foot print

  26. reminds me when monkey Ballmer stated iphone 1 was a toy on NBC

  27. somebody just mad because wackberry sucks just as much as apple lol truth

  28. I’m thinking tablets r dead bcuz of note2

  29. yeah, who wants to make money for the next five years?

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