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BlackBerry CEO predicts tablet market will diminish within five years

The CEO of the seemingly reinvigorated BlackBerry doesn't have much faith in the long-term potential of the tablet sector, saying in an interview that in five years there might be no reason to have a tablet at all.



BlackBerry chief Thorsten Heins said in an interview on Monday that the tablet market may not exist as it does now in five years, Bloomberg reported. Heins' comments cast doubt on the possibility of BlackBerry launching a follow-up to its ill-fated PlayBook tablet, even though such a move has been expected by many observers.

"In five years I don't think there'll be a reason to have a tablet anymore," Heins said. ""Maybe a big screen in your workspace, but not a tablet as such. Tablets themselves are not a good business model."

Heins' reference to "a big screen in your workspace" could indicate the direction in which the company plans to move with its devices. Prior to the release of BlackBerry's Z10 and Q10, the company was rumored to be working on a mode for the handsets that would allow them to connect to a display and essentially work as a computer with external inputs. Such functionality did not emerge at the launch of BlackBerry 10, but the firm may still be developing it.

Monday's comments aren't Heins' first words on tablets. The BlackBerry exec said in March that his company would not reenter the tablet market unless it had a gamechanger.

"I think the profit pool is very, very thin," Heins said to the Australian Financial Review. "Kudos to Apple, I think they really managed to own that space, so it doesn't make sense for me to just take this head on. I need to figure out, for my enterprise customers, for my consumers, for my BB10 audience, what can I do that provides them a mobile computing experience in the form factor of a tablet, which goes beyond just the puristic tablet experience."

Heins' nod to Apple underscores the Cupertino company's dominance in tablet computing, a segment Apple reinvented with its iPad. Apple CEO Tim Cook regards the segment as "the mother of all markets," and indicative of the "Post-PC era" proclaimed by late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

BlackBerry's previous foray into the tablet sector, the PlayBook, proved a disaster for the company. The small form factor tablet never took off, and the company was forced to write down roughly half a billion dollars in unsold inventory.

The launch of BlackBerry 10, though, appears to have slightly altered the company's fortunes. Sales of the all-touchscreen Z10 are as yet unknown, but the firm expects its hardware QWERTY keyboard-enabled Q10 — highly anticipated among BlackBerry devotees — to sell very well. Encouraging initial indications from both models — along with shrinking quarterly losses — have pushed BlackBerry shares higher.