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Are the Tablet's Days Numbered?

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BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY  ) CEO Thorsten Heins caused quite a stir when told Bloomberg that in five years, he doesn't believe the world will need tablets anymore. If true, it would mean that tablets are currently the Beanie Babies of technology and will be soon forgotten. Ouch.

Clearly, this claim sounds downright absurd, given the tablet's parabolic growth trajectory and its continued assault on the PC industry as a whole.

A brief history lesson
Tablets as a computing medium have grown in popularity for one underlying reason: affordability. At the end of the day, the slew of low-cost Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) Android tablets offer a compelling computing experience. The fact that an everyday user can purchase an Android tablet for around $200 and have their basic computing needs met has proven to be a powerful preposition.

As a result, worldwide tablet shipments reached 40.6 million units in the first quarter, which represents an increase of 117% year over year. In terms of annual shipments, IDC believes the tablet market will match the current size of the PC market by the end of 2017. If PCs were cheaper than tablets, I don't think the economics would support the rate at which tablets are currently being adopted around the world.

On a long enough timeline...
It's entirely possible that the tablet's growth trajectory could be disrupted if a more advanced technology comes along and replaces it. Wearable technology could become the next "it" thing in mobile computing, having far-reaching implications for the entire computing industry. Google Glass represents a possible direction of where the future of computing could be headed. The world as we know it could completely change as we begin to reach the full potential of augmented reality.

However, it stands to reason that whatever replaces tablets and other mobile computing devices ought to be relatively affordable, otherwise it risks low adoption. Until then, I don't expect any advanced technology to disrupt the tablet's current growth trajectory. Perhaps in five years' time, Google Glass will cost a lot less than its $1,500 current asking price, and Heins won't get any credit for calling the tablet's demise.

Destination unknown
Despite BlackBerry's ambitions to be the "absolute leader in mobile computing," it doesn't know what the future holds for mobile computing. No one does.

Realistically, if a more advanced technology came along and killed the tablet, it'll likely kill the smartphone as well. Something tells me that wouldn't be a good thing for BlackBerry.

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Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (1)

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  • Report this Comment On May 02, 2013, at 1:35 AM, misledbyfools wrote:

    It's easy to predict a trend line. IDC can do this, but as you said nobody knows the future and five years out is a long time in tech cycles. What IDC cannot do is tell us what is the next big thing in mobile computing. I would rather consolidate all tech devices into one small portable device to rule them all, but hey that would be precious. I'm waiting for the next big trend line that has not even started to trend yet and to that IDC is truly blind as they work from the past.

  • Report this Comment On May 02, 2013, at 6:48 AM, brianasmith24 wrote:

    I'm looking forward to popping my BB10 phone into a docking station at work, a docking station or blue tooth connection in my car, a multi-media docking station connected to my tv at home and a tablet like shell for when I want something bigger than the phone itself. The phone has all the necessary processing power and with cloud storage hard drive size is not an issue.

  • Report this Comment On May 02, 2013, at 1:08 PM, XXF wrote:

    Put. A. SD. Slot. In. A. Current. Gen. Quality. Tablet.

    The theory that tablets should be connected to the internet 100% of the time to access media is one of the most frustrating things for me and because of it I do not own a tablet. I travel a lot for business and don't always have reliable or quality internet connectivity. If the only options are drop a hundred more on hardware and 80 bucks a month for a cellular connection I'll just keep on keeping on as I always have.

    Alternatively, it would seem like I'm the exact customer that they should be targeting with these eminently portable devices if only they would enable physical media access.

    Whether it is an iPad and iPhone, a Google Nexus and a compatible Android, or a complementary set of Samsung Galaxies (tablet and phone) I will purchase both from the company that first allows me to physically transfer media between the two. (I am not holding my breath on Apple taking a pro-consumer stance on this)

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