Both of RIM's co-CEOs have reputations for being pretty opinionated dudes, and we feel like Mike Lazaridis in particular would go to the ends of the Earth to support BlackBerry's business model -- but at the cost of one of his own products? Speaking at a tech conference in Toronto today, Lazaridis apparently said that the long-term viability of the tablet market (iPad included) is in doubt, especially as smartphones get more powerful; that would probably serve to quash the rumors from a few days back that the company is working on its own large-display device for release later this year.
More interestingly, though, were his comments that full touchscreen phones like the iPhone "aren't that popular" -- that's news to us -- and that many that end up buying them ultimately go back to a physical keyboard handset. You know, like a Bold or a Curve, for instance.
Whether Lazaridis is conveniently forgetting the existence of his own Storm and Storm2 , suggesting that touchscreen devices don't have a long-term future at RIM, or just saying that they'll remain a niche play for the company going forward is unclear -- but any way you slice it, we'd say it's a pretty significant dis for the Storm series and its owners. Looking at the bigger picture, it might also be a sign that these guys are still very much on the fast track to becoming the next Windows Mobile -- dinosaurs paralyzed by their own past successes -- but who knows? Maybe there'll always be limitless demand for an endless array of barely iterative hardware paired to a decade-old user interface.
Update: We've received the full transcript of Mike's session from the conference relating specifically to the touchscreen phone and tablet comments, and the reality is quite a bit different from the summary we'd been working from before. As tablets go, he says that "you can't say what's the market for tablets in exclusion of... other devices" -- a fair argument, considering that the iPad's ultimate target demographic still isn't totally fleshed out -- and actually never disrespects touchscreen phones outright, instead saying that the "QWERTY push messaging experience" is still "really, really important" while acknowledging that the company "[continues] to evolve with the research and [investment] in the Storm technology to make sure we get those right." Follow the break for the transcript.