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Why BlackBerry's tepid tablet strategy could be its fatal flaw

Al Sacco | June 4, 2013
BlackBerry is making a significant comeback, but its stance on tablets and the future of the BlackBerry PlayBook could undo any progress it has made.

At the same LA conference in late April, Heins also issued the following gem:

"In five years, I see BlackBerry to be the absolute leader in mobile computing — that's what we're aiming for."

But can a company be a leader in modern mobile computing without a strong tablet offering?

I say no, and I think that BlackBerry's tablet strategy, or lack thereof, could actually undo the progress it makes with BlackBerry 10 on smartphones and prove to be the company's fatal flaw. Here's why.

Tablets Feed the Mobile Ecosystem

I'm not a huge fan of tablet PCs. Sure, I own a few of them, and I use one every day. That's why I know that, for me personally, they're a luxury; tablets don't really do anything that PCs can't. As such, not everybody needs a tablet.

But everybody wants one, and that's been good enough to create a massive market for the gadgets. In fact, global PC shipments are expected to decrease by 7.8% in 2013, due largely to a shift in PC buying trends as users consider alternatives such as tablets for more of their computing needs, according to research firm IDC. (IDC is a sister company of IDG Enterprise, CIO.com's publisher.)

Tablets themselves may not be essential these days, but mobile ecosystems are. And tablets are an integral part, if not the most important part, of any successful mobile ecosystem today. Both Apple and Google, BlackBerry's most significant competitors, realize the importance of healthy mobile ecosystems — hardware, software and services. And they've each sunk billions of dollars into developing products and services to round out their respective offerings.

Mobile ecosystems make it easier for customers to employ multiple devices without buying the same apps multiple times and having to sync data and settings across various gadgets. Reliance on a single platform or ecosystem is not necessarily a good thing; some are designed to lock people in and limit user choice. But there's clear value in investing in the ecosystem that best fits your needs.

On the services side, BlackBerry is building up its BlackBerry World app store with movies, TV shows, books, and mobile applications in an attempt to keep up with Apple's iTunes Store and Google's Play store. But on the device side, Android and iOS tablets continue to grow in popularity, while BlackBerry appears to be letting its PlayBook die a slow death.

BlackBerry needs to focus on BlackBerry 10 on smartphones, so it's the right move to put tablets on the back burner for now. But it's a huge mistake for the company to forsake tablets and tablet users entirely. Every month that passes without some information on the future of the PlayBook results in more PlayBook users jumping ship or potential customers choosing a tablet from a BlackBerry competitor.

 

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