The Internet spent Tuesday morning laughing at a suggestion by BlackBerry CEO Thorstein Heins that tablets won't exist in five years, a scenario that is as plausible as it is predictive — in fact, it's as exciting a plan for the future of gadgets as the one Apple built right under your fingertips. "In five years I don't think there'll be a reason to have a tablet anymore," Heins told Bloomberg. "Maybe a big screen in your workspace, but not a tablet as such." So the chief of the revamped cellphone company thinks that, soon enough, we'll all have one gadget that connects up to all the screens in our lives. Which amounts to a prediction about the commodification of our things, which sounds like an awesome plan that is, frankly, bound to happen.
Consider your purse, and your living room, and your briefcase, and your desk: Why do we need them filled with so many different sized screens, all of which do pretty much the same thing? We don't. Indeed, consumers have already stated a preference for less overlap. The allure of so-called "phablets" — at least to the legions who have opted to buy big-screen phones — is that they have a hefty, near tablet-sized screen, perfect for streaming videos or reading magazines, without forgoing the telephone part of things (even if it does a look a little silly right now).
Now consider the iPod, which launched in 2001: Once we had a gadget that performed its core function and more—the iPhone, which debuted seven years later—nobody wanted to carry around redundancy in their pocket, or on their morning job, or on the car dashboard. Since the release of the iPhone, the iPod has seen a slow decline in sales, per this chart from ZDNet:
Phablets might not replace tablets, per se. But, it's not hard to imagine, or at least dream, of a future in which there is one computer device that does all the things. (The iPad is only three years old, after all.)
In fact, Dell — yes, that beleaguered Dell — has already conjured a possible scenario: Project Ophelia. Rather than have multiple computing devices, Dell's project would pack the power of a PC into a giant USB stick you then plug into a flatscreen TV or computer monitor. That doesn't sound too far off from Heins's prediction, which involves having a big screen at your workplace, for which to plug in something like Project Ophelia. Or maybe it's not a USB port that kills the tablet so much as a pair of glasses, or a watch — some sort of wearable computing that acts as the portable component, which hooks up to all of our screens.
A lot can change in five years, even three — and hopefully it does. Just look at how much the Mac business has receded since the advent of the iPad since the Apple tablet debuted in April 2010:
Remember: When the iPad first came out, people likened it to "just a big iPod touch." Most people want less stuff. Perhaps some of us have replaced their PCs with tablets and smartphones. But, ideally, it would be nice to have one thing that does it all. It might not be a BlackBerry, but here's hoping it's something.