BlackBerry CEO likes tablets, just not as they are

BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins made some different -- and seemingly conflicting -- comments about the state of tablets.

BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins, flanked by Chief Marketing Officer Frank Boulben (left) and Chief Operating Officer Kristian Tear
Roger Cheng/CNET

ORLANDO, Fla.--OK, so is BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins a fan of tablets, or isn't he?

Heins, who made waves last month when he said he didn't see a place for tablets in five years, made some seemingly contradictory comments on tablets when he spoke on Tuesday during a Q&A session with the media while at the BlackBerry Live conference.

"We believe in a single element of mobile computing: one on your hip," Heins said.

Roughly 15 minutes later, Heins said BlackBerry was looking at the future of tablets and investing R&D dollars into those projects.

Which begs the question: What now?

In a brief interview with CNET after the Q&A, Heins clarified his comments, adding a bit of nuance to his expressed thoughts.

"The industry got stuck on the term tablets," Heins said, adding that, despite his prior comments, he does see a role with larger-screen devices. "We want to create something that's easier to use."

Heins' goal is to transform the tablet experience so they don't run on a separate operating system. Instead, they potentially could rely on a BlackBerry to act as the brains of the device. The tablet could be a larger screen without an OS of its own.

While BlackBerry is devoting R&D into some sort of tablet project, Heins doesn't seem eager to come out with another tablet.

"The pure hardware play isn't making a lot of sense today," he said.

Likewise, he said he expects BlackBerry 10 to be embedded in other devices, such as cars, a scenario that the company showed off during its keynote presentation today.

Former RIM President and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis introduces BlackBerry PlayBook at the developers conference in San Francisco in 2010. James Martin/CNET

Heins was ridiculed a bit for his earlier comments, which came off as sour grapes after BlackBerry's disastrous launch of the PlayBook tablet. A pet project of former co-CEO Mike Lazaridis, the PlayBook launched without key BlackBerry features, such as e-mail and instant messenger service.

Other companies, meanwhile, consider tablets to be their future avenue for profit growth. Apple's iPad is an unmitigated smash hit, while Samsung Electronics sees its Galaxy line of tablets driving growth in profits in the long term.

BlackBerry doesn't seem to be ignoring this, but views things a bit differently.

"We're interested in the future of tablets, whatever that is," Heins said.