BlackBerry CEO Questions Future of Tablets – Is He Right?

Industry News, Mobile Devices Comments (0)

BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins doesn’t think tablets will be around in five years, a statement that has sparked a discussion here at Float.

“While their new 10 series is nice,” commented Float’s managing director, Chad Udell, “to say that tablets will be gone in 5 years is a bit nuts. If I were to place bets, the tablet form factor will swallow laptops for all but the most powerful boat anchor style laptops – the portable workstation. Most information workers will bring their tablet back and forth between work and home. They’ll plug the tablet into a display (or wirelessly transmit the signal) and use a trackpad and keyboard to really pound out emails or do their daily work. The laptop loses this battle, not the tablet.”

I think that Heins is right if we think in terms of what today’s tablets are like.

First, they are too heavy and too bulky to carry around easily. At the same time, smartphones like the Samsung Note are getting bigger, filling in the gap between 7-inch mini-tablets and phones, a new category referred to as “phablets.”

But, the other possibility is that smartphones will become more flexible in terms of display and input devices, without getting heavier or bigger. On the display side, phones will come with built-in pico projectors, such as the one available from Texas Instruments. And, flexible roll-out digital paper, which has been available for years, will provide phones with an alternative display versus heavy large-screen tablets, or maybe the phone will simply be an app on a piece of digital paper.

BBC PaperPhoneSimilarly, the keyboard can also be on rollout sheet, similar to the new keyboard for the Microsoft Surface, or will be projected on any surface or even in the air, with haptic software detecting finger movements. Prototypes of wearable gestural interface technology have been available at MIT for several years. Of course, voice recognition abilities may also replace keyboards in phones.

Heins may simply be trying to justify dropping the PlayBook 7-inch tablet from the BlackBerry lineup, giving this decision a positive spin. It makes sense for BlackBerry to go back to their base market – very secure business phones – and stay away from competing with Apple and Android tablets.

What do you think about the future of tablets?

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Gary Woodill is a senior analyst with Float, as well as CEO of i5 Research. Gary conducts research and market analyses, as well as assessments and forecasting for emerging technologies. Gary is the co-editor of "Mastering Mobile Learning," author of “The Mobile Learning Edge,” and the co-author of “Training and Collaboration with Virtual Worlds.” He also presents at conferences and is the author of numerous articles and research reports on emerging learning technologies. Gary holds a doctor of education degree from the University of Toronto.

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On May 2, 2013
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