April 30th, 2013, BlackBerry fans heard something that made us all cringe. Thorsten Heins, then CEO of BlackBerry, let us know in no uncertain terms, that we would not be seeing a new tablet from BlackBerry.
“In five years I don’t think there’ll be a reason to have a tablet anymore. Maybe a big screen in your workspace, but not a tablet as such. Tablets themselves are not a good business model.”
As someone who thought tablets were the way of the future, and who had purchased several BlackBerry Playbooks myself, I was in shock! How could Thorsten, the man that kept speaking of mobile computing, turn his back on what was surely the future form factor of this idea? And Thorsten had made a mistake, a huge error in fact. He angered BlackBerry fans, those that had been supporting the brand. He angered me. But was he wrong about tablets? I don’t think so. Not anymore.
So much has changed in the mobile space since he introduction of the Playbook. BlackBerry has seen themselves hit rock bottom, has seen the exit of Thorsten as CEO, and has seen the arrival of our man John Chen who has set BlackBerry on an upward trajectory that has surprised everyone. We’ve seen tablet sales drop, even the successful tablets don’t sell as they once did. Apple released the iPad mini, and with their latest announcement of iPads, showed that they put no new effort in to the new mini, keeping all aspects the same, only adding the Touch ID sensor. The Nexus 7 appears to be dead with no new version announced.
From a personal standpoint, my Playbook went everywhere with me. In combination with my BlackBerry Torch, it did everything I wanted. And when I got my first BB10 device, the Z10, the Playbook started staying at home when I went out, and eventually became forgotten. I still loved the idea of a tablet, but the Playbook didn’t do anything that my phone did. And I went through a series of different tablets trying to get that “feel” back again. Several android tabs, that were quickly returned or given away once I realized they didn’t offer anything that I wanted.
Tablets aren’t really a good business decision for device makers either. Phones have a quick turnaround time. We love our new phones, and we will upgrade them at our first opportunity. But tablets aren’t done that way. Tablets tend to be more of a one and done purchase. And now, it’s even more difficult for smaller tablets. With 6 inch phones on the market, why buy a 7 inch tablet? Gizmodo posted an article this week speaking about how phablets have killed the small tablet, and I agree.
I think the days of tablets running on mobile operating systems are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Something that we may look back at as a fond memory someday, or more likely, a case of what were we thinking? There is a tablet that has a place in my opinion. Windows tablets. Not the RT versions that even Microsoft has now abandoned, but a tablet that has a full desktop operating system is proving to have an impact that I really appreciate. And no, it’s not the function I originally wanted in a tablet. I have two Windows tabs, a full size and a smaller 8 inch, and neither travel with me as I originally expected. I’ve learned for what I need on the go, my BlackBerries handle just fine. What the tablets have done, is completely replace my laptop. And this is the direction I believe manufacturers, need to head in. If Apple is smart, this will be the last family of iPads running iOS, and future versions will be running OSX.
And BlackBerry is helping this progression along. The BlackBerry Passport is proving to be a perfect form factor to replace tablets. A quicker, more accurate input, BlackBerry 10 offering a level of productivity current tablets can only hope to achieve. And for those that wish to have a bigger screen, blend will give you a seamless transition between the device you carry with you and your computer at home, or that old android/iPad in the glove box of your car.
BlackBerry Passport is mobile computing. No doubt about it. Mobile computing the likes of which we never saw in a tablet. And with the arrival of the BlackBerry Passport, I’m not so angry at Thorsten anymore. Now, I need to admit that I think he was right. Am I happy about the ultimate fate of the Playbook? Of course not! Would I like BB10 on my Playbooks? Yes please. But was that the future of mobile computing? No, it wasn’t.
Yes, judging public reaction, Thorsten made quite a mistake in making that statement last year. But was he wrong? I don’t think so. Seeing how quickly the mobile landscape has changed since then, 5 years may have been a very generous estimate.
This post started out as a response to a thread in our forums started by Rayj, who asks the question, “Is the Passport a tablet killer?” I think it is. Agree? Disagree? Head over to our forums and let us know what you think.
And remember, the forums require a separate login. Hope to chat with you there.