The hot quote of the day is definitely this one from Thorsten Heins, CEO of BlackBerry:
In five years I don’t think there’ll be a reason to have a tablet anymore,” Heins said in an interview yesterday at the Milken Institute conference in Los Angeles. “Maybe a big screen in your workspace, but not a tablet as such. Tablets themselves are not a good business model.
So my first question is “what does he think a tablet is”?
Apple created the current table market a couple of years ago and now both they Samsung are doing quite well. For them, a tablet is really just a device with a different form factor. An iPad is pretty much an iPhone or iPod with a bigger screen. It connects via WiFi, 3G, or LTE, just like a phone does. Android tablets are pretty much the same idea. As GigaOM notes, tablets seem like a pretty good business model for now.
Contrast that with BlackBerry, whose PlayBook tablet was really essentially a screen that needed a BlackBerry device to do things like read email or communicate. It was basically just a mobile web browsing device and little else.
So in that context, his comment makes sense. It’s likely that nobody wants a special purpose device that just browses the web unless it is connected to another better networked device.
As for a tablet though, people well always have differing needs for screen sizes on their devices depending on what they use them for, so a “tablet as varied form factor device” market probably isn’t going to go away anytime soon.
I would prefer a different idea though. Right now my iPhone and iPad are just pretty conduits to web-based data. I enter my food data in LoseIt. I track steps and sleep with Jawbone’s UP. I read email from Gmail and other services. Twitter, Facebook and other social services just provide information to my device. Or my devices.
I’d like to expand that. I’ll carry the size of device I need at the time. Ideally it will let me push that information to a larger screen or external audio system when I need to. AirPlay lets me show photos and video on my television when I want to. I play music to my Jambox when I’m outside. Or use a Bluetooth keyboard for intensive tasks. I do see current tablets as consumption devices rather than creation devices though.
Everything to me is just an interchangeable output device for a little processor that lets me access my data. In the foreseeable future I’m still going to want apps though because they package the data nicely and optimize its transfer. But as HTML5 support improves that could change too.
But the market for varying form factors isn’t going away.