Crazy About Tablets

Is BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins just nuts? Or…

Today’s big quote is from BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins, who’s getting widely mocked for what he said yesterday about tablets. Here’s Bloomberg‘s account:

“In five years I don’t think there’ll be a reason to have a tablet anymore,” Heins said in an interview yesterday at the Milken Institute conference in Los Angeles. “Maybe a big screen in your workspace, but not a tablet as such. Tablets themselves are not a good business model.”

Well, okay.

There are a few possibilities here.

  1. He’s nuts, totally wrong, and we should just make fun of this today and move on.
  2. He’s right, and I’ll be writing a detailed how-I-blew-the-tablet-story article in five years. (Cough, Flash.)
  3. There’s some nuance or context missing that makes him part-right but still pretty ridiculous-sounding.

There was a point, after all, when it might have been hard to believe that the netbook market would simply vaporize the way it has.

It’s possible, then, that something will happen that will make tablets-as-we-know-them seem undesirable. For example:

  • Maybe in five years, everyone will have a paper-thin, 6-inch phone in their pocket, and a paper-thin, 30-inch touchscreen computer at home, and/or Google glasses, and today’s 8-to-10-inch tablets will be rare.
  • Maybe he’s talking about a specific class of usage — big-company desk workers, or something? — and not mainstream consumers?
  • Maybe there’s a technicality in his thinking or semantics that’s not coming across.

Or maybe he’s just trying to sound provocative when he really has no idea what’s going to happen.

Apple’s iPad business, for example, is still growing rapidly. In the recently reported March quarter, Apple shipped 19.5 million iPads, 7.7 million more than it did the year before. That’s better than the year before, when March-quarter iPad shipments increased 7.1 million from 2011.

Why the acceleration? One reason is the iPad mini, which — on the other hand — is depleting Apple’s legendary profit margins. But Apple still likely recorded at least $1 billion — maybe $2 billion — in iPad profit last quarter alone. So saying that tablets are “not a good business model” seems more specific to BlackBerry, which has only ever shipped lousy tablets.

In its three years of life, the iPad’s growth chart looks pretty great — especially relative to the Mac business. Here’s five years of history to look at.

iPad Mac Chart

But that’s the blessing and the curse of technology: It is possible for things to be completely different in just a few years’ span. So maybe in five years, tablets will rule the world. Or maybe they actually won’t.

Also: Has The Mac Peaked Forever?

“In five years I don’t think there’ll be a reason to have a tablet anymore.”

— BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins. (Via Jay Yarow, who notes that it’s probably BlackBerry, not tablets, that won’t be around in five years.)

4 Lessons From The Yahoo Weather App

Yahoo’s new iPhone Weather App continues to lead the Weather app charts in iTunes, and I’ve seen more normal people talking about it — in a good way — than any app in a long time.

  1. Hey, look at that, Yahoo is capable of making something useful and beautiful. In mobile, no less; the future of its business. This is just one small piece of the puzzle, but it’s a good sign. (Then again, not everything they do is great. The new main Yahoo app seems mediocre.)
  2. Anyone under the impression that old, simple problems — like accessing the weather — have already been “solved” is nuts. “Do we really need another weather app?” Actually, if it’s better, we do. Imagine if they’d stopped making new search engines after HotBot or new smartphones after the Samsung BlackJack.
  3. Don’t neglect the icon. Never has an icon seemed so uninspired, relative to the rest of the app. Icon design is just as important as the app itself. This one’s a dud. This would actually be a great argument for some sort of subtle “live” icons, like Apple’s built-in Calendar app has.
  4. The App Store is still a very capable hit-maker. And Yahoo still has some brand pull/recognition. Again, I’m surprised by how many people I know have been talking about this app. Of its ~7,700 iTunes ratings, 89% are five stars and 97% are at least four stars.

How Google Is Eating Chrome

Bit by bit, Chrome is becoming less about us and more about Google.

Google Chrome Search

I switched to Chrome a few years ago because it was insanely fast, relatively stable, and refreshingly uncluttered. Especially relative to Firefox, which was on the road to becoming slow, bloated-ass Netscape Communicator all over again.

Chrome is still fast and stable, and I still prefer it to Safari and Firefox for most browsing. But wow, Google is starting to Google it up even more.

Check out the “new blank tab” in the latest version of Chrome for Mac, “27.0.1453.65 beta.” It’s basically the Google homepage — special commemorative logo included! — minus the Google+ bar at the top and Privacy/Advertising info links at the bottom.

Google New Tab

It also re-added an “Apps” button — which I’d already hidden before — to my Bookmarks bar. It’s easy enough to right-click and deactivate this. (Nice try.) But still.

And there’s also a new Google logo next to the re-styled, predictive Google Instant search terms, as you can see in the top screenshot. No big deal, again, but a little cluttered. Do I really need to see the Google logo every time I type anything into my URL bar?

If you switch away from Google as your default search engine, all of this goes away. But I still prefer Google for most searches, so I’m going to leave it alone.

Anyway, of course this is going to happen. Chrome has been a huge hit for Google, and is now the top browser worldwide. For most people, it’s the portal to the Internet. Google is smart to try to own that as much as possible. How long until my new tab has an auto-playing YouTube preroll?

(Lastly, maybe this is only a beta feature that won’t make it to the “retail” version? I don’t know.)

But I still long for a fast, simple, truly blank new tab page, which Safari is happy to give me, and Google doesn’t seem to offer. This is a compromise. So I’m going to be a whiner until I get used to it.

Also: The End Of Android

“Today we’re announcing a few improvements to Twitter for Mac…”

— 1) Pigs fly! 2) Thank you, Twitter. 3) This is smart. My Twitter for Mac is open for 12+ hours a day. There’s no way I’m alone. Why destroy that?

Apple’s Solid-After-All Quarter In Charts

Apple is still growing, but slower than before. And it’s not as profitable as it was a year ago — a rare reversal. But it’s still solid.

Apple reported March quarter earnings this afternoon. Expectations were muted, and Apple beat them, with particularly strong iPad shipments. Mac shipments were flat, and iPhone shipments beat low expectations, showing just 7% growth.

Apple Earnings Charts Q3 2013

Also: Peak Mac?

Design Of The Times: The Floating-Over-Everything Button

A micro-trend in iOS apps? The new Facebook and Foursquare apps have buttons hovering over — and partially obscuring — the content below.

Hover Buttons

In Facebook’s case (left), it’s a pill-shaped “New Stories” button that shows up at the top of the screen when there are new News Feed items to load. In Foursquare’s app (right), it’s a big, round “Check In” button at the bottom of the home screen.

  • It lets a button stand out without a navigation bar blocking off the entire width of the screen. (This is, perhaps, increasingly beneficial as screen sizes/resolutions become less consistent and predictable.)
  • And it feels a bit more futuristic than the old nav-bars-of-square-buttons, in a Minority Report/Google Glass sort of way. Eventually, there might be a bunch of buttons hovering over our field of vision, on our car windshields, eyeglasses, wherever. This simulates that heads-up display effect.
  • The downside is that it covers up some content. But less than a more-elaborate, full-width nav bar does. And if the button is drawn nicely, it will still stand out.

This isn’t a brand-new concept — Path, for example, has had a small floaty button in the bottom-left corner for a while. Sparrow, too, I’m reminded. And Apple Maps. And Google Maps, where the “Locate me” button is enough in the way that I routinely tap it by mistake.

And it could quickly become tired/overdone quickly — you really wouldn’t want to overuse this. But I think we’ll see more of this technique.

Previously: The Wrap-Around Ribbon