BlackBerry (NYSE:BB) 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.
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.
Fool contributor Steve Heller owns shares of Google. The Motley Fool recommends Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.