"I think [Heins] is looking for publicity. He cannot be serious in his prediction, [which is] pretty much akin to saying the Earth is flat," said Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney. "There's no rationale for tablets dying." Dulaney said he wouldn't be surprised if BlackBerry eliminates the PlayBook, which shipped only 150,000 or so units in the third quarter of 2012. "They probably would not be successful with a new tablet if they reintroduced a tablet," he added. "They cannot take on Windows tablets and Apple, too."
Smartphones to stay as a hub in personal computing
Rather than suggesting that tablets are doomed, some analysts said Heins is more likely predicting that smartphones with a wireless connection to the Internet will be at the center of a person's computing capability. Those smartphones will provide more processing power and access to data in the cloud, which can be transmitted to smart displays, watches, and headsets via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or other short-range wireless networks.
Last November, in an interview with the New York Times, Heins predicted that average users won't carry a laptop in three to five years. "Instead, smartphones will power the PC workstations of the future, replacing laptops and desktops," he said.
Dulaney said it's a "foregone certainty" that the next generation of Ultrabooks -- thin and powerful high-end laptops -- will run on Intel's "Haswell" chip and will support touchscreens. As such, they become more like the tablets that have physical keyboards attached. "Maybe what Heins is saying is that phones will be dockable and serve as browser PCs going forward, with an attached large screen," Dulaney said. "That's been done before, but I don't think it's the future."
IDC's Mainelli said wearable computers have the potential to disrupt -- but not replace -- both the smartphone and tablet markets. Wearable computers "change the way we interact with smartphones and tablets."
Another Gartner analyst, Carolina Milanesi, said that in coming years, a variety of smartphones and tablets will power larger screens, acting as the engines for monitors. "The idea of the Swiss Army knife of one device doing everything is passed. We will continue to own multiple devices that we will use in different ways, and tablets will be the core our content consumption activity," she said. "Smartphones will not go away for quite some time. With wearable computers, you could see some functions migrate from phones to wearable devices, and for some users that might make smartphones less important ... But, bottom line, tablets are not a fashion and will be here to stay."
Analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group said Heins is correct about some tablets going away, at least traditional tablets that were basically netbooks with touchscreens instead of keyboards. "Tablets are becoming just as capable as laptops, and they increasingly have optional keyboards, meaning they are morphing into a laptop variant," he said.
Changes coming for mobile device types
Both Enderle and IDC's Mainelli said large smartphones, meaning those that have displays of six inches or more, could cannibalize tablets with smaller displays of seven inches or so. "The iPod Touch has pretty much been eliminated by the iPhone, and I think the iPad Mini is likely to be eliminated by the iPhone, while the iPad and the MacBook Air are likely to become redundant to each other," Enderle added.