UPDATED: Mike Lazaridis Says Tablets and Touchscreen Phones Are Insignificant

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UPDATE: RIM were kind enough to send over the transcripts of the TD Newcrest event in order to clear up exactly what was said during the keynote. After reading the actual transcripts from the event, it’s clear Mike L didn’t say anything that was really definitive about the tablet market, but rather promoted a sense of uncertainty. I think the iPad definitely proved a tablet market can be vibrant, and that the market can handle some redundancy. When it comes to touchscreen devices, the transcripts show that there was definitely an attempt to pivot the conversation away from touchscreens and focus more on trackpads. When I first wrote about this, the thought was that Mike was shifting the discussion away from touchscreens and towards their competitive advantage, which is definitely the trackpad market. The 8520 has a very high customer satisfaction rating, and you could argue the trackpad is central to this. It’s a smart move for Mike to shift the discussion to these devices, which he calls a “third dimension” in user input. Overall, the original post was a little focused on a dismissal of tablets and touchscreens, and would have probably been better put as a focus on trackpads and smartphone capabilities.

Mike Lazaridis spoke at a TD Newcrest technology conference in Toronto today where he downplayed Apple’s tablet efforts and said there wasn’t necessarily a market for them. Lazaridis said these devices should be put in the context of computers and smartphones, and said if a user is asked to choose between an tablet and a netbook, the tablet isn’t an adequate substitute. Mike L believes that as smartphones become more powerful, and move closer to PCs, the need for a tablet is greatly reduced.

Lazaridis also dismissed the importance of touchscreen phones, saying that touch-only devices such as the iPhone aren’t that popular. While it’s important to appease the consumer and the carrier, who clearly want a touchscreen device, he believes most of these customers are shifting to QWERTY.

All of this news comes as we learn that RIM might be launching a tablet of their own, and they are about to launch yet another touchscreen device, this time a BlackBerry slider.

So what is Mike Lazaridis talking about? This could be an attempt to pivot the conversation about tablets and touchscreens, and move the discussion to where RIM is more competitive (eg QWERTY devices and productivity). It’s a bit of a slap in the face to Storm owners, when the top executive seems to lack faith in the product they purchased. The message should be: “Touchscreen phones provide new possibilities for interesting UIs and the input makes for some creative applications. Rest assured, RIM will do it better than the rest as we understand how to create a smartphone with real productivity and utility in mind.”

Transcripts from the TD Newcrest conference:

Question: “Let me move on to one more. In December, you gave an interview to the Financial Post, there was a really interesting paragraph that you talked about handling devices and you raised a lot of good questions about their value in what they would accomplish. You didn’t really spend as much time, I think as everyone here would want, if you want to answer me, and it was a shorter interview. Maybe you can answer some of those questions now, the markets evolved a little bit, there’s been some product announcements. What are your thoughts about that type of form factor?”

Mike Lazaridis: “Well. The trends we’ve been following have been an — there’s been, over the last three to four years, organizations have discovered the value of smartphones clearly, and that’s why we’re here, and that’s what we’re talking. And smartphones are always starting to space the need for laptops, but not all laptops, and not all needs. And I know that there are risks organizations that ask their customers when they join, when get hired, do you want a smartphone or a laptop very few get the opportunity to have both. So I think that’s an important thing, those are differentiated.

So the question you have ask yourself is when it comes to tablet, what market or what opportunities still it’s solving, what problem is it solving, and is it just a replacement laptop. I think that’s a difficult one to judge. But I think again if you look at what’s happening with smartphones are getting bigger, screens are getting bigger and getting more powerful and faster CPUs, more memory, we go in the 4G networks, we’ve got Wi-Fi, it’s just got everything, the operating systems are becoming more, more powerful, the tools are becoming more, more powerful, more applications are being developed, and are being used in more and more both enterprise and consumer spaces. So, I think at this point if you have to take the whole thing into consideration, you can’t say what’s the market for tablets in exclusion of the other devices, you have to put the whole thing together and I don’t think it’s that clear yet”.

Excerpt #2

Question: “In the consumer market, it seems like, in the smartphones, especially, there is a line to be drawn between QWERTY and touchscreen, and you dominate in the QWERTY space. And I wondered what you think — I think the audience by watching, what do you think about the touchscreen form factor and how that needs to evolve and what do you think you need to do?”

Mike Lazaridis: “Well, I mean, clearly the best thing to do is to provide the choice and let the consumer and the customer to ultimately decide. I think what we’re seeing in the market though is that, it’s not clear if one side fits all and it really isn’t. And you can see it because a lot of people are realizing the incredible value and lifestyle improvement that are well-designed QWERTY push messaging experience brings to table. It’s really, really important. We’re finding — if you look at the surveys, you can see that large amount of the customers that have purchased touchscreen devices in last two years, they intend to get a device with the QWERTY keyboard on it now, right. I mean, they’ve got into a point where they’ve realize that a touchscreen alone is not enough; so that’s important.

I think with the trackpad technology is going into the BlackBerrys now, we provide a gesture and an elegance to control. Again, that’s unmatched. So, I think that is a third dimension, because you talk about touchscreen devices, you talk about QWERTY devices, but I would argue this is third, the whole control, command and control of things like well-designed trackpad technologies. I think, that’s really, really important. And I think, we continue to evolve with the research and invest in the Storm technology to make sure we get those right, we learned a lot and we continue to evolve that platform. I think that again what’s important is we provide that choice and we don’t lose sight of the fact what’s made us famous and what’s driving our sales, which is our QWERTY keyboards and our incredible track [indiscernible].”

  • http://caspan.com Caspan

    Touch screens are a fad……

  • KingB

    I wish touch screens were a fad, but I am scared that they are here to stay for a long while. They are the new kids on the block and expanding…

    Add to this 3D, touch and gesture and eye movement recognition and you are as far as you can get from traditional blackberries….

    has RIM stock taken a beating lately? (hint: yes)

  • Joe Smith

    what a dumbass, thats the kind of mentality that makes companies obsolete..This guy will be obsolete, you're too old school Mike..You should retire. Think forward you old crusty.

  • http://caspan.com Caspan

    Its people like Mike that come out with stuff that's not today cause people are to focused on the present they cannot see it. I don't think stuff like Mike said is unrealistic. Touch screens are so 6 years ago, when is someone going to say it lets move on to a new technology… Just because touch screens work for some people today it does not mean they are the be all to end all. Let's find something new and better like eye tracking for input. Touch screens are useful for manipulation of the screen but are horrible for input. Let's start thinking tomorrow so I'm glad Mike has the guts to say stuff like this.

  • Billy

    Looks like his comments were badly misinterpreted. Crackberry has some of the transcripts …

    http://crackberry.com/mike-lazaridis-once-again-downplays-touchscreen-devices-adds-tablets-mix-time

  • http://www.blackberrycool.com/ Kyle McInnes

    Updated the post with the transcripts. While I think the original post was a little heavy using the word “insignificant”, it was definitely an attempt to pivot the conversation away from tablets and touchscreens, and more towards trackpads. Interesting that he calls it the “third dimension” of input. Is it really that significant? Trackpads have been around for ages. I think if you're going to pivot the discussion to a competitive advantage, RIM should talk about features like BESX, where no other smartphone can compete.

  • dirtymeltorme

    After five years of being a BlackBerry loyalist, this is the stuff that makes me so mad. The lack of innovative thinking. Sure, BESX and BES, they're great at it – what else can and will RIM do to make the experience of using a device, to do something as awful as working, enjoyable. OS 5.0 is as stale as the late 4.7s, with seemingly no hopes of greatness on the horizon – ETA of 6.0, nowhere in sight. Even then, 6.0 will mimic something else that is already out. Why did RIM even bother pushing out the Storms if Mike thought this way? Why not innovate something and stop trying to be the next iPhone. HTC has it figured out, heck, even Windows did something different with the Kin. BBs will quickly become a device only used for work if they cannot find/develop/innovate a niche to keep themselves in the game with their non-BES subscribers, which has to represent a healthy percentage of RIMs overall clientele.

  • http://www.blackberrycool.com/ Kyle McInnes

    Updated the post with the transcripts. While I think the original post was a little heavy using the word “insignificant”, it was definitely an attempt to pivot the conversation away from tablets and touchscreens, and more towards trackpads. Interesting that he calls it the “third dimension” of input. Is it really that significant? Trackpads have been around for ages. I think if you're going to pivot the discussion to a competitive advantage, RIM should talk about features like BESX, where no other smartphone can compete.

  • dirtymeltorme

    After five years of being a BlackBerry loyalist, this is the stuff that makes me so mad. The lack of innovative thinking. Sure, BESX and BES, they're great at it – what else can and will RIM do to make the experience of using a device, to do something as awful as working, enjoyable. OS 5.0 is as stale as the late 4.7s, with seemingly no hopes of greatness on the horizon – ETA of 6.0, nowhere in sight. Even then, 6.0 will mimic something else that is already out. Why did RIM even bother pushing out the Storms if Mike thought this way? Why not innovate something and stop trying to be the next iPhone. HTC has it figured out, heck, even Windows did something different with the Kin. BBs will quickly become a device only used for work if they cannot find/develop/innovate a niche to keep themselves in the game with their non-BES subscribers, which has to represent a healthy percentage of RIMs overall clientele.