BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins wants the world to know that he's a visionary. By 2018, he told Bloomberg, he sees a future that's so advanced it's gone all the way back to 2009 because by then this whole tablet thing will have gone the way of the dodo.
“In five years," he said, "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.”
Yeppers, you read that correctly. We aren't in a Post-PC world, as Steve Jobs liked and Tim Cook likes to tell us, we're in a Pre-Post Tablet world. Now that's forward thinking.
But wait, there's more, because Mr. Heins's forward vision also sees that the future will be dominated by his company, a sort of corporate once and future king.
“In five years," he said again, "I see BlackBerry to be the absolute leader in mobile computing—that’s what we’re aiming for. I want to gain as much market share as I can, but not by being a copycat.”
This from the guy who thinks that the most exciting product his company has is the Q10, a device with a physical keyboard designed to appeal to BlackBerry users who haven't already given up on that dog.
I was literally rendered speechless (I have a witness) when I first read this stuff. I even wondered if Bloomberg was punking us, so incredibly stupid are these pronouncements.
To look at the success of the iPad and conclude that tablets will have run their course within five years is the single most myopic thing I have encountered from a corporate executive.
It's even worse than Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer saying last year that no one had made a tablet than people wanted. While a patently stupid assertion, he wasn't saying no one wanted a tablet, he was just making up nonsense to try and prop up his company's then-new Surface tablet. At least he acknowledged the iPad as a strong competitor in 2010.
It's even worse than when Steve Ballmer dismissed the iPhone in 2007. A lot of people dismissed the iPhone in 2007 (and 2008, and even 2009), but that's what happens with a disruptive product, people don't get it.
The difference here is that the disruptive nature of the iPad is firmly established. That's what makes Mr. Heins's "vision" so appallingly bad, and if I was a shareholder...well let's just say that I wouldn't be a shareholder.
BlackBerry is in a tough situation. The company has some amazing assets, starting first and foremost with its strong corporate services infrastructure, but BlackBerry has stumbled time and again since the iPhone—and later Android—came along and made smartphones useful for more than just email.
Tough situation or not, pretending that tablets aren't a form factor that will increasingly dominate computing until the next paradigm comes along is no way to get things back on track.
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