Since the official launch of BlackBerry 10 on Jan. 30, there has always been the question of when a BB10 version of the PlayBook tablet will be out. BlackBerry officials were never specific, always alluding to an announcement “later this year” on the subject. Well, the time for this announcement has come, but it probably isn’t what you had expected.
BlackBerry’s first quarter, fiscal 2014 earnings conference call last Friday started out as you might expect, with CEO Thorsten Heins going over how far they had come in the first five months of BB10. But then, because the company knew it would be getting questions about it, Heins announced it wouldn’t support an update of PlayBook to BB10.
BlackBerry has been unable to make the newer software work reliably on the PlayBook, Heins said. Earlier, he had mentioned the goal was to have no more than six new mobile devices in release, presumably to allow a focused attention on other areas such as BlackBerry’s Enterprise Service. Apparently, the PlayBook is not one of those six devices.
Although many media outlets have stated BlackBerry broke its promise to eventually release a BB10 PlayBook, to be fair to BlackBerry, that isn’t quite true. The only thing BlackBerry had promised on the subject was that there would be an announcement sometime this year, and technically the company has followed through on that.
That had to be a tough decision, the last in a line of tough decisions BlackBerry has had to make over the past year or so. But, as Heins says, “we are doing the right thing.” Given that the approximately 2.5 million PlayBooks sold is about 4 percent of the total tablet market, there must be some point where the amount of effort and expense used to try to upgrade it becomes too much. Like I said, it must have been a really tough decision.
Does this, like every pundit likes to speculate, mean the end of BlackBerry as we know it? Probably not. Its Enterprise Service 10 has gotten a lot of use, and the sales of the new smartphones, led by the BlackBerry Z10, is pretty brisk. What this means is, BlackBerry is backing away from the tablet arena, a place in which it was never able to gain a firm foothold anyway.