Will we be using tablets in five years?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: April 30, 2013

A long time ago, tablets came and went, and we all went along with our lives like nothing changed. Some people may have missed those old, thick, heavy "portable" devices of yesteryear, but as our laptops got thinner and lighter, much of those emotions probably turned to love for other devices. But, then Apple decided to drop the iPad, and everything changed.

People who may not have remembered that tablets existed once before were quick to say that Apple invented the tablet market. Others, though, calmly pointed out that Apple simply reinvented the market, and made it into a profitable venture. So it would make sense that pretty much every other major manufacturer out there focused on the mobile market would want to jump on the tablet bandwagon, and create their own device to rake in the dough, right?

You know how that turned out. I'm not going to get into whether or not Android-based tablets are lucrative. I'm not even going to talk about Windows 8 tablets. Instead, I want to focus on another company that gave it a real shot a couple years ago, but their efforts just didn't pan out. I want to talk about BlackBerry, formerly known as Research In Motion. 

It was under that previous title that they released their first tablet device, the BlackBerry PlayBook. The tablet itself, from a hardware perspective, wasn't terrible by any means. It had a 7-inch build, it was relatively lightweight, and the display wasn't complete garbage. On the software front, plenty of people praised the QNX software, even if it reminded many of those same people of Palm's webOS. However, the device ran into issues when it launched without necessary applications like *email* out of the box.

In the end, the BlackBerry PlayBook didn't do very well. So the company moved on. Now they've got a new name, a pair of new devices (the BlackBerry Z10 and Q10), and a new mobile operating system (BlackBerry 10) that they are banking their future on. Of course, one can't stop looking towards the future, and what may be coming down the pipe. Or, in this case, what's *not* coming down the pipe.

BlackBerry's Chief Executive Officer, Thorsten Heins, had quite the quote from his time at the Milken Institute conference in Los Angeles yesterday. He was talking about tablets, and he had this to say:

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

Well, okay then. So, in five years, tablets are going to be relatively pointless, and we shouldn't expect to see any manufacturer releasing a device in that specific category. What's more, apparently they aren't a good business model.

Does this seem to you to be more of a reflection, rather than a general statement about the mobile industry? I've watched on Twitter as the general sentiment regarding Heins' statement is simply one of, "They don't have an answer for tablets." And, based on the PlayBook's lifespan, I imagine that sentiment wouldn't be too far off.

Five years is a long time in the tech world. There is no doubt about that. And, well, anything is possible in that amount of time. But I don't think Heins believes tablets are just going to phase out, or people are going to stop buying them because they suddenly realize they don't want them anymore. I believe Heins is seeing the future he wants to see because he believes BlackBerry will be shaping that future. Essentially, there won't be tablets in five years because he believes BlackBerry will be the leader of the mobile space in that span of time, and they won't have tablets.

I believe this is reinforced by the interview Heins had towards the end of March of this year, when he pointed out that our smartphones are powerful enough to run our laptops, and hinted at that's the direction BlackBerry could be going. And, to be the leader of the mobile industry, that would mean trying to take over the other markets. So, have our smartphones powering our laptops, and therefore you don't need tablets anymore.

If there was any speculation about Thorsten Heins' plans for BlackBerry, and whether or not he has the drive to at least *try* and make BlackBerry succeed in the mobile industry, I think we can put that to rest by now. He's got an aggressive plan, one where his company is *leading the mobile space* in five years. Like I said earlier, that's a long time and anything is possible, but obviously BlackBerry has a pretty tall hill to climb before they can even be considered a contender for first place.

Will that happen in five years? Moreover, will we no longer be using tablets in five years? Do you think BlackBerry will be shaping the overall mobile experience in five years? Or will the company be still struggling around that time? Or gone completely? Let me know what you think.