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March 18, 2013

Heins Says BlackBerry Tablet Still A Possibility

CEO Takes Jab at Rival Apple, Says iPad Maker Needs to Pick Up the Pace

BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins has not ruled out manufacturing a tablet to take on Apple’s iPad.

If BlackBerry does create a tablet, however, it would not be based around a business or consumer service, he said.

“The pure hardware alone is a cutthroat business and I owe it to my shareholders to provide a return on investment,” Heins was quoted by while speaking in Sydney for the Australian launch of the BlackBerry Z10, its new touchscreen Smartphone.

Heins said the Canadian firm is running “a few projects” to determine how a BlackBerry tablet could work.

“How can we take this to the next stage and not just be another tablet, or another design of a tablet? How can we really add value?” he said. “Tablets in my view, from a hardware perspective, is a very difficult business.

BlackBerry Z10

BlackBerry Z10

“There’s one company, kudos to them, that did it really well and they own the majority of the market,” he added, referring to Apple.

While Heins praised Apple for its early innovation in the tablet market, he intimated to the Australian Financial Review (AFR) that the iPad maker’s pace has slackened in recent years.

“Apple did a fantastic job in bringing touch devices to market … They did a fantastic job with the user interface, they are a design icon,” Heins told AFR. “There is a reason why they were so successful, and we actually have to admit this and respect that.

“History repeats itself again I guess … the rate of innovation is so high in our industry that if you don’t innovate at that speed you can be replaced pretty quickly. The user interface on the iPhone, with all due respect for what this invention was all about, is now five years old.”

Heins said sitting still is not an option in the mobile market — hence the release of BlackBerry’s new OS BlackBerry 10.

He said BlackBerry 10 is superior to iOS in some ways, such as its ability to multi-task, making it easier to run and use multiple apps at the same time.

“The point is that you can never stand still. It is true for us as well. Launching BB10 just put us on the starting grid of the wider mobile computing grand prix, and now we need to win it,” Heins said.

Heins also discussed the launch of the Z10 in the U.S. March 22.

When the Z10 hits store in America, there will be 100,000 apps available in its application marketplace — up from the 70,000 it had available when the device was launched in Canada and the U.K. in early February. Despite the rapid increase, BlackBerry’s app tally is still considerably smaller than those offered in Apple’s App Store for iOS and in Google Play for Android.

“We are working constantly on getting these important apps on board,” he said.

“I think we are seeing the dynamic changing over time as they want to watch and see how BlackBerry 10 is making it in the market. They want ROI on their development dollars as well. I think this is a very respectful way of looking at your business, and it is our job to convince them that BB10 is a successful platform.”

The Z10, which was launched Feb. 5, has garnered blockbuster sales in both Canada and the U.K.

“In Canada, yesterday was the best day ever for the first day of a launch of a new BlackBerry Smartphone.  In fact, it was more than 50 percent better than any other launch day in our history in Canada,” Heins said in a Feb. 6 statement.

“In the U.K., we have seen close to three times our best performance ever for the first week of sales for a BlackBerry Smartphone.”

Canadian carriers also said the Z10 was selling well. Rogers, for instance, experienced a Z10 frenzy the first day it went on sale with some of its retail stores running out of stock.

The BlackBerry 10 has been billed as the beleaguered Waterloo, Ont. company’s last chance at redemption. BlackBerry’s devices dominated the market at one time, but have since fallen victim to Apple’s iPhone and devices powered by Google’s Android operating system. With a net loss of $235 million in the last quarter, the firm desperately needs the Z10 to be a success.