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BlackBerry CEO: iPhone past its prime

Aging user interface deserves 'respect' – just like your granddaddy

From BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins' point of view, Apple's iPhone is growing rather long in the tooth.

"The user interface on the iPhone, with all due respect for what this invention was all about, is now five years old," Heins told The Australian Financial Review.

Not that Heins has no respect for the iPhone – it's more that his respect is somewhat like that which you have for your granddad, that upstanding member of The Greatest Generation.

"Apple did a fantastic job in bringing touch devices to market. ... They did a fantastic job with the user interface, they are a design icon. There is a reason why they were so successful, and we actually have to admit this and respect that," Heins said.

Just like you have to respect Glen Miller, Artie Shaw, and Woody Herman, but you don't have to tag their tunes into your workout playlist. You'll also notice that Heins chose the past-tense "were" rather than the present-tense "are" when discussing Apple's success.

"The point is that you can never stand still," Heins said. "It is true for us as well. Launching BB10 just put us on the starting grid of the wider mobile computing grand prix, and now we need to win it."

The width of that starting grid, however doesn't yet stretch far enough to include an upgrade to his company's failed tablet, the BlackBerry PlayBook – at least not yet. Heins told The Australian Financial Review that he sees no compelling business case that would make it reasonable to get back into the tablet market in the near future.

The PlayBook, you may remember – if you remember it at all – inexplicably arrived on the scene without a native email client, an app that you'd think would be considered a necessity on a mobile device.

"I wouldn't want to do it the same way again," Heins said. "If I do something around tablets, I want it to be really substantial and meaningful, and quite frankly it would need to be profitable as well."

Concerning tablet profitability, Heins had kind words for Cupertino. "Kudos to Apple," he said, "I think they really managed to own that space, so it doesn't make sense for me to just take this head on."

Heins is in Australia for the launch of the BlackBerry Z10 in that country, (while watching the Melbourne Formula One Grand Prix – thus some of his terminology) and to promote BlackBerry (née RIM) as "not a phone company," but instead as the provider of "a mobile computing solution."

Come to think of it, the use of the term "solution" to describe a combination of hardware, software, and services is a bit old hat, as well – just like a certain smartphone operating system. ®

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