Why BlackBerry can’t afford to ignore the tablet market

BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins’ skepticism got a lot of attention on Tuesday, following his prediction of lackluster demand for tablets over the next several years, and his thoughts are resonating with some tech pundits and journalists. ZDNet’s Larry Dignan and CITEWorld’s Matt Rosoff both write that Heins might be right that tablets are simply a transitional device that will fade as the cloud evolves, and Quartz’s Christopher Mims opines that BlackBerry would likely become the Dell of a tablet market, where prices are falling precipitously.

All of those arguments make a lot of sense: Tablets will certainly become less important as our dependence on the cloud grows, enabling users to access a wealth of information and services from a wide variety of connected devices. And as a glut of affordable slates come to market, profit margins will be increasingly difficult to find for any vendor not named Apple.

For at least the next few years, though, tablets will increasingly become must-have devices in the enterprise market that BlackBerry desperately needs to reclaim. Tablets are ideal for a wide variety of business uses, from making sales presentations to tracking patients’ health care to accessing and entering information in the field. BlackBerry is selling a mobile OS and supporting ecosystem as much as it is selling devices, just as Apple is doing with iOS and Microsoft is doing with its Windows series. BlackBerry may not be able to make a lot of money in tablets themselves, but ignoring that market risks losing invaluable market share of the mobile enterprise.