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Confusion at BlackBerry over the future of the PlayBook tablet

BlackBerry Playbook AppThe future of the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet is as confused as ever, following the publication of two separate reports which seem to go against each other regarding when, or if, we’ll see a sequel to the troubled slate. According to BlackBerry’s director of product management, a new version is already planned for later this year, while CEO Thorsten Heins is decidedly less enthusiastic about releasing another tablet any time soon.

Product director Mike Al Mefleh, speaking at a BlackBerry User Forum in Dubai and reported by Emirates 24/7, is quoted as saying BlackBerry has, “A very clear roadmap,” for the coming year, and in addition to the six new phones we’ll see released, there will be a new PlayBook too. Anonymous sources then speculate a 10-inch version of the PlayBook will arrive soon after the BlackBerry 10 software update for the first PlayBook, or sometime in the second quarter of the year.

Now, this isn’t the first time talk of a new BlackBerry 10 tablet has surfaced. At the beginning of February, another BlackBerry executive said a BlackBerry 10 tablet would, “Definitely be coming later this year.” However, very soon afterwards, he retracted the statement, saying he was misquoted and there were no immediate plans for another tablet. So, will Mefleh also decide he was misquoted?

Next up, Thorsten Heins chatted about BlackBerry tablets with the Australian Financial Review, but he was considerably less positive about the company’s future tablet plans. He called the PlayBook a, “Valuable trial run in getting BlackBerry 10 right,” then said, “The business case for taking a plunge back into the tablet market was not compelling.” He continues, “I wouldn’t want to do it the same way again, if I do something around tablets, I want it to be substantial and meaningful, and quite frankly it would need to be profitable as well.”

These don’t sound like the words of someone with nothing more than a 10-inch version of the PlayBook waiting in the wings, and also hark back to comments made at the time of BlackBerry 10’s launch. Speaking to AllThingsD, Heins admitted by selling tablets alone, it was tough to make money, and that it was looking at adding, “Specific value-added services on top of the tablet.”

It’s easier to side with Heins here, as with the launch of BlackBerry 10, the Z10 and Q10, plus the often discussed sextet of further phones coming this year; the company has plenty of other hardware to concentrate on instead of a sequel to a tablet nobody wanted the first time around.

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