The astronomic growth in the tablet computer category is nothing more than a flash in the pan, according to Toshiba, with the company looking past the slate fad to the next evolution in mobile computing.
Managing Director for Toshiba in Australia, Mark Whittard today expressed sentiments about tablets that fall in line with recent comments from BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins about the imminent death of the tablet computer category. He believes that while smartphone and notebooks will be persistent spaces in computing, tablets and 'phablets' will "give up" as the market contracts.
"It's that kind of tablet, phablet thing in the middle that's under pressure... whilst it is booming at the moment, it actually has a short life. And, we've seen this before, with Pocket PCs and Palm Pilots, we've seen it with MP3 players."
This doesn't mean that Toshiba will discontinue work on tablets in the meantime, though, with the company launching a new Windows 8 tablet in Australia today. The Protege Z10T is a hybrid-style PC with a detachable keyboard dock and an 11.6-inch touchscreen tablet.
There were even hints of new Android-powered tablets in the pipeline.
"We're in the tablet market and we want to stay in the tablet market, we want it to grow, but the reality is that you have to start thinking about what's that next evolution and start preparing your engineers and R&D to be there ready for that, and hopefully at the forefront." said Whittard.
The future is vague
While Toshiba and BlackBerry may agree that the death of the tablet is near, and may even eagerly anticipate a post-iPad computing future, the vision of what is next is different for both companies.
Toshiba sees room for both smartphones and notebooks, while BlackBerry is betting on a single device to power all the different dumb terminals in our digital lives. That single device would be about the size of a BlackBerry Z10, of course.
"If [smartphones] become the one and only [source of] computing power that you have, that will change the way you look at the peripherals around you." said Heins during the launch of the Z10 in Sydney earlier this year.
The cynics among us would be tempted to put these comments down to the poor performance of both companies in the tablet space. Toshiba has so far failed to make headway with tablets in the way its competitors Asus and Samsung has done, and BlackBerry's PlayBook tablet is a well-documented failure.
It is hard to argue with the merits of the conversations though. Recent statistics suggest that many adults in mature technology markets now use three or more computers across a range of sizes to satisfy a range of use cases. Some are for pure content consumption, others are for content creation.
That there could be a single product on the horizon that could manage all of these areas in our lives is no only plausible, but desirable.