updated 02:55 pm EDT, Fri April 16, 2010
RIM co-CEO questions iPad, iPhone staying power
(Updated with clearer remarks) RIM's co-chief Mike Lazaridis downplayed many of Apple's efforts today in a keynote at the TD Newcrest technology conference in Toronto. The executive was concerned that there wasn't necessarily a market for tablets like the iPad and that any devices would have to be put in the context of computers and smartphones. Many companies ask new hires to choose either a new smartphone or a new notebook, and if the tablet is simply a substitute for a notebook at those companies it may be "difficult to judge" if it's worthwhile, Lazaridis said.
He added that smartphones are getting more powerful and more computer-like over time; he implied this would reduce the need for a tablet due to the amount of overlap in features.
The company leader also downplayed the importance of touchscreen-only phones. While it's important to give customers what they want, touch-only phones (like the iPhone) aren't as popular anymore, Lazaridis argued. He claimed that most of the people who bought touchscreen-only phones in the past two years were going back to phones with hardware QWERTY keyboards, whether touch-enabled or otherwise. It's those keyboards that made RIM "famous," he said.
He pointed out that it was the experience and not the features that determined a phone's success, and that the most popular BlackBerry was actually the starter Curve 8520. It not only lacks touch but 3G and a high-resolution screen.
Lazaridis' statements may have been partly contradicted by leaked, though unconfirmed, plans. RIM may be preparing an 8.9-inch tablet, and the company in the past two years has tried to heavily promote the touchscreen-only Storm and Storm2 without much success. Lazaridis was careful to stress that the company would still improve on the Storm but didn't say whether that would involve a change in form factor or a continuation of the existing touch-only formula.
The leaked BlackBerry 9900 touchscreen slider may be an answer to these phones' relative troubles, as it would not only add a hardware keyboard but could remove the click-down screen that has soured some buyers on the Storm.