Blackberry CEO Clarifies Tablet Strategy—Sort Of

by Matt Klassen on May 15, 2013

At the time they were seen as bold words from Blackberry, the company CEO Thorsten Heins stating that within 5 years there won’t “be a reason to have a tablet anymore.” While some took his utterances as nothing but sour grapes from a company bereft of a successful tablet offering, others were intrigued by Heins’ vision for the future, perhaps even inspired by his clarity of purpose…but then he went and opened his mouth again.

During a Q&A session at the company’s annual Blackberry Live event yesterday, Heins clarified his company’s tablet strategy, offering some additional, and not to mention contradictory, thoughts on the tablet scene; thoughts that simultaneously made me feel that Heins doesn’t quite know what he thinks about tablets or the future of the mobile segment, and certainly has no idea how to build a successful tablet platform.

So what is Heins’ brilliant tablet strategy? Well, it happens to be almost exactly the same one that his failed predecessors Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie envisioned several years ago with the defunct Playbook, recreating tablets as complementary technology to Blackberry’s smartphones.

While the tech blogosphere is awash in stories about Heins’ apparent tablet flip-flop, few seem to have given thought to his words regarding his company’s tablet strategy, words that worringly outline a development plan almost identical to the one that resulted in the firing of the company’s previous co-CEOs a few short years ago.

According to Heins’ cryptic and contradictory comments, the company’s mobile computing strategy is built around one keystone: the smartphone. “We believe in a single element of mobile computing: one on your hip,” Heins said yesterday during Blackberry Live. Then 15 minutes later Heins further muddied the waters by offering this insight: “The industry got stuck on the term tablets,” Heins said, adding that, despite his previous comments, he does see a role with larger-screen devices. “We want to create something that’s easier to use.”

From his comments it’s becoming increasingly clear that Heins’ goal is to recreate the tablet experience so that they don’t run on a separate operating system, relying instead on a Blackberry smartphone to act as the brains of the device. The tablet would ostensibly be nothing but a large screen companion device, without an operating system of its own.

So imagine the ease of use Heins’ vision of the tablet future will bring: you relaxing on the couch ready to watch a show on Netflix or read the day’s newspaper on your tablet, when you realize your smartphone is out of power from a day’s worth of use, rendering that ‘easy to use’ large screen tablet in front of you absolutely useless.

In the end I have to say that from Heins’ comments last month to the cryptic tablet strategy he espoused this week the man is either a brilliant visionary on par with Steve Jobs, recognizing mobile consumer trends before people themselves know what they what they want, or a bumbling fool, desperately rehashing the company’s once failed (and only) tablet strategy in hopes of achieving different results.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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