BlackBerry's CEO is sure tablets are on the way out. That's despite every indication that tablet makers will only continue to sell more units in the years ahead.
Thorsten Heins does not see a bright future for that sector of the mobile device industry. Some expect BlackBerry to soon announce it will not be manufacturing another PlayBook tablet.
"In five years I don't think there'll be a reason to have a tablet anymore," Heins told Bloomberg News in an interview Monday at the Milken Institute's Global Conference 2013 in Los Angeles. "Maybe a big screen in your workspace, but not a tablet as such. Tablets themselves are not a good business model."
Heins is also confident that BlackBerry will be the "absolute leader in mobile computing" in five years. At least, he said, that's what he's aiming for. He told the audience at the Milken Institute conference that he wants to gain as much market share as possible without being a copycat.
Roger Entner, a wireless industry analyst at Recon Analytics, said he believes it's more likely that BlackBerry smartphones will be dead -- or that BlackBerry, the company, will be dead -- than that tablets will be dead.
"The tablet form factor, that makes a lot of sense. We are now at the point where tablets are helping us be more productive. You can do things with a tablet that you could once only do with a laptop and that you will never be able to do with a phone because of the size of the screen," Entner told us.
"For Heins to say he doesn't think there will be any reason for a tablet any more in five years is attention-grabbing or attention-seeking at best, or shows a lack of understanding of the marketplace at worst. Billions of dollars in revenue disagree with him. Millions of people are buying tablets. Where he's right is that they are buying predominantly Apple tablets, but I have no doubt that tablets will stay with us."
IDC predicts that tablet shipments will surpass desktop PCs in 2013 and portable PCs in 2014. In 2013, worldwide desktop PC shipments are expected to drop by 4.3 percent and portable PCs to maintain a flat growth of 0.9 percent. The tablet market, on the other hand, is expected to reach a new high of 190 million shipment units, with year-on-year growth of 48.7 percent, while the smartphone market is expected to grow 27.2 percent, to 918.5 million units.
By the end of 2017, IDC predicts that tablet and smartphone sales will have huge growth potential in the emerging markets. During this time, tablet unit shipments are expected to increase by a factor of three with a shipment value of $125 billion while smartphone unit shipments are expected to double and reach a shipment value of $462 billion. Portable PCs, on the other hand, will show a moderate single-digit growth while desktop PCs are expected to consistently decline year over year with almost no growth in 2017.
"In emerging markets, consumer spending typically starts with mobile phones and, in many cases, moves to tablets before PCs," said Megha Saini, research analyst for IDC's Worldwide Smart Connected Device Tracker. "The pressure on the PC market is significantly increasing and we can see longer replacement cycles coming into effect very soon, and that, too, will put downward pressure on PC sales."