The End of Tablets? BlackBerry Thinks So

Apparently, BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY  ) CEO Thorsten Heins thinks tablets are no good. Well, not exactly, but it's understandable, given that his company's Playbook tablet has sold just under 2.5 million units since its launch. Compare that to Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) , which sold 19.5 million iPads in the calendar year first quarter (FY Q2) of this year. It is an interesting comment though, to say that tablets are not long for this world, given the tremendous impact that would have on today's leading tech companies. Why does Heins hate tablets, and where is the future headed instead?

No tablet for you!
Blackberry had been rumored to be developing a sequel to the ill-fated Playbook, but it appears that may not be the case. At the Milken Institute Conference this week, Heins stated, "In five years, I don't think there will be a reason to have a tablet anymore." Naysayers may immediately discount the comment, and I can't say that they're wrong. However, I do see Heins' point and can't help but remember the ongoing decline of PCs.

What investors should actually take away from this isn't that Heins thinks a 7-inch or 10-inch screen device has no place in our lives, it's that a handheld touch PC is still, at its core, a PC. The iPad, Android, and Windows tablets are just mini-versions of what we had years ago. The future, according to Heins, is a true all-in-one device. This is not a novel idea, but it does give clarity to his company's goals.

BlackBerry's tomorrow
"In five years, I see BlackBerry to be the absolute leader in mobile computing. ... I want to gain as much market share as I can, but not by being a copycat," said Heins. I know that most Apple and Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) fans -- and maybe everyone else -- will laugh off that statement, but they shouldn't. Apple and Google certainly seem further along, given their tablets and smartphones, but maybe Heins sees this as initial legwork his company didn't have to do. The end game, at least for now, is to have a phone-based product that accomplishes all of our computing needs. We ultimately don't want a tablet and a smartphone.

BlackBerry's Z10 device did not hit the sales targets bulls were looking for, but the physical keyboard-enhanced Q10 appears to be tracking very well in its early launch, according to management. BlackBerry's turnaround thus far, given the odds of recovery, has been very impressive, in my opinion.

Investors should keep in mind what Heins said at the conference. With Microsoft pouring resources into its catch-up game with the Surface tablet, it's unsettling that the device may be a good answer to an old problem. Apple's iPad, a huge part of the company's sales and 46% of the tablet market share, may need to find a way to merge with the iPhone. The only companies that seem to have already headed in the direction of "phablets" are Google and Samsung, with products such as the Galaxy Note.

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  • Report this Comment On May 01, 2013, at 5:38 PM, tychicum wrote:

    BBRY's tablet didn't even have email.

    They came out of the chute and did an even poorer job of selling them than HP did with the Touchpad ... and that is really saying something.

  • Report this Comment On May 01, 2013, at 6:40 PM, Oril wrote:

    Thorston Heins is right, the future of mobile computing is certainly not tablets. Anyone who has ever bought an iPad knows they were a nice toy at the time but like most toys have been handed over to the kids to play with. They may have replaced the desktop but most have never been used outside the home without a wifi connection and that is a far cry from being a mobile computer. Besides that they are clumsy and awkward to type on as any user can tell you. And that's not just apple but all tablets.

    Anyone who owns a tablet will likely never buy another and if they still exist in five years will be obsolete and unable to get services much like the first generation iPhone is now.

    Heins called this one right but you fools are too stunned to admit it.

  • Report this Comment On May 01, 2013, at 6:56 PM, HiramWalker wrote:

    The tablet is for people who don't need a computer, mobile or otherwise. Oril needs a computer and finds the tablet a toy, but the vast majority of people never wanted one in the first place. They bought cheap PCs so they could email, surf the web, and maybe watch some video and play some games. Their phones do that now for them when they're mobile, and when they are on the sofa the tablet does it too, in a more comfortable size. Students and knowledge workers need a good laptop, but for many a phone and a tablet will do everything they need. Some even want to get away with only one device and go for phablets.

  • Report this Comment On May 01, 2013, at 6:56 PM, st0815 wrote:

    Nobody knows what will dominate the market in 5 years, but unfortunately for Heins, that includes him.

    Worse - his current product lineup is anything but innovative. Blackberry is playing catch-up. They now have devices which may be able to slow the loss of customers, but they don't have anything on offer which could attract new ones.

  • Report this Comment On May 01, 2013, at 7:56 PM, Oril wrote:

    Hiram Walker, you are wrong, you must be drinking too much of your product. I have no use for a computer , they have all ended up at the recycle depot at the dump years ago. That includes several thousands of dollars worth of desktops, laptops and printers that became so much junk over the years. We now have a couple of iPods in the family to store music which I expect will be lost when the batteries eventually die. There is an iPad somewhere in the house that no one uses anymore. I expect it won't be long before it all ends up at the same recycle depot.

    I am now relaxing as you say on the sofa typing this with my smartphone as I watch the hockey game. I couldn't imagine doing this with the iPad,

    When it comes to the future of mobile computing, Thorsten Heins is right. iPads and tablets are yesterday's news unless they can interact with a smartphone which I expect blackberry will do in coming years,

  • Report this Comment On May 01, 2013, at 9:23 PM, TimSagan wrote:

    I have a mobile app company, so we have every type of mobile device at the office (including the playbook). I also have netbooks and laptops, etc. I have options. I can pick up whatever I want to check stuff, surf, read, play apps, or play a youtube video. I almost always go for the (10 inch) iPad. It's the device that stays with me next to the couch and next to my bed.

    Which device you use depends on exactly what you do, how you use a mobile device. That's changing, so it's hard to predict. In the next couple years I see larger 5+ inch smartphones taking out eBook Readers and 7 inch tablets. (Presumably this is what Heins was talking about?) I also see 10 inch tablets taking out even more netbooks and some laptops, not disappearing.

  • Report this Comment On May 01, 2013, at 10:26 PM, Dadw5boys wrote:

    We old people have money ! We can't hold those slippery little peices of well cell phones we drop them and peices of cra and we like the tablets we can use skype and make calls from it .

    Do almost everything we ned with it !

    So mess up this market instead of expanding it !

    I thought Blackberry had this expsnsive toy thing down he just tragets the wrong customers.

    I can see trageting younger people because the damage stuff more but they also buy insurance on those phones so your not makin that much.

    Spend a little effort on advertizing and see if the Old People won't jump on the 10.1 tablet if it is easy to use and they can use a portable kepboard.

  • Report this Comment On May 02, 2013, at 12:03 AM, nireyaj wrote:

    I don't want to go blind staring at a too small screen, so I will never: read email, play video games, or watch movies, on a cell phone. I also do not want to lug around a desktop computer...or even a typical notebook. A tablet suits me fine. The small screen thing applies just as well to smart watches as it does to smart phones. Tablets will not go obsolete as long as people like me exist. More of us come into being every day. I use a laptop as my desktop, and a tablet as my laptop. I buy to satisfy my needs, and wants...not to keep up with some 20-something crowd of geeks. I am not alone. Blackberry will be gone in 5 years, but the tablet will remain.

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