M2M Platforms

BlackBerry Wants a Fruitful Future in M2M

BlackBerry hasn't said it will stop making its once-iconic, now-passé smartphones (yet), but it's clear the struggling company sees a brighter future in devices outside of the smartphone. (See BlackBerry's Chen: We're Not Dumping Devices.)

In a wide-ranging interview with the Economic Times, new BlackBerry CEO John Chen said leveraging QNX, the operating system it acquired in 2010, for M2M communications was a key priority for the struggling handset maker going forward. (See BlackBerry Shakes Up Its C-Level.)

"We have engineered a new strategy to stabilize the company, focusing on several key areas to capitalize on our traditional strengths in security and enterprise, while also leveraging our QNX Embedded business to focus on future growth opportunities in machine-to-machine (M2M) communications," Chen told the publication.

More specifically, Chen says that BlackBerry will have a major M2M play in five years' time, although he didn't say which industry it would be targeting. "BlackBerry is well positioned to lead this charge as it looks to unite people and machines across the Internet of Things -- from smartphones to in-vehicle telematics systems, smart appliances and much more," he said. "Everything will be connected and we would like to become a major hub of this next important technology wave."

This meshes with previous comments Chen has made, and I think it's a good strategy for the Canadian company. For one thing, QNX is already the operating system of choice for a lot of non-smartphone devices like, for example, MRIs and connected cars. That's one reason BlackBerrry invested in a healthcare startup last month -- to get QNX on even more medical devices. (See BlackBerry Invests in Healthcare IT Startup.)

And, in case you haven't noticed, the connected car is suddenly the space that everyone wants a seat in, from carriers to device makers to software providers. From what I've seen in past demos, QNX is a solid OS for in-car navigation and "infotainment," and it already has partners lined up including Porsche, BMW, Saab, Audi, and Acura. (See AT&T Makes GM Cars a Data Plan Add-On.)

I imagine these two areas -- healthcare and connected cars -- will be the focus of BlackBerry's forthcoming M2M hub, and that's a good place to start. Five years is a long time to wait, but the line of business at least seems like a safer bet with more potential than taking on smartphones.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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Ariella 5/14/2014 | 3:25:21 PM
Re: A more open BB @Sarah if needs must, as they say, and Blackberry certainly has the need to try out some new directions.
Sarah Thomas 5/14/2014 | 3:17:11 PM
Re: A more open BB Yep, that was the news I referenced in my first comment. I think it's a good move to open up more; a necessary one whether they want to or not.
Ariella 5/14/2014 | 3:14:26 PM
Re: A more open BB @Sarah I just saw thism which says Blackberry's strategy includes allowing its device to be managed by "third-party mobile device management applicatons."


Sarah Thomas 5/14/2014 | 12:39:28 PM
Re: A more open BB That's why five years seems like a long time to wait for me. If BlackBerry wants to own the ecosystem, it could be too long. If they want to be just one part of it, then they can take as much time as they need, but that doesn't seem wise.
hlim431 5/14/2014 | 7:57:14 AM
Re: A more open BB Thanks for the article Sarah, it's ALL good news... for someone who values substance over form!  John Chen is doing a great job, and bring his SAP/Sybase lieutenants over just gives me greater confidence.

DanJones 5/13/2014 | 3:58:23 PM
Re: Too late If BB could come up with an M2M design that uses very little power for very long battery life then that could be interesting for smart sensors or other applications were you want the battery to live for a decade or something like that.

I've seen no sign that they would be capable of that yet, though.
MordyK 5/13/2014 | 2:25:14 PM
Re: Too late We've seen alot of chest thumping by BB at conferences about the opportunity of QNX in connected cars and devices for awhile now, but very little implementation. If BB manages to unburden itself from the device side and actually focus on it, they may have a shot. This actually would make cultural sense for the historic Research in Motion which was a dynamic and shifting business, rather than its Blackberry legacy which married a single product and its business model.
MordyK 5/13/2014 | 2:20:21 PM
Re: A more open BB I think it really depends on the model that prevails. If customers can buy any connected device or entity such as a car and match it with any platform, BB is doomed as customers will adopt their Android or iOS ecosystem. If however the decision is made by the MFG as is currently the practice, then BB has a bright future and may even be a good acquisition target for somebody like Qualcomm.
Sarah Thomas 5/13/2014 | 2:00:32 PM
Re: Too late I think QNX has a better and more established reputation in M2M than Android, one it started building up before it was acquired by BlackBerry in 2010. I never thought BlackBerry did all that much with it, but sounds like they're going to start to now.
Sarah Thomas 5/13/2014 | 1:59:36 PM
Re: A more open BB But if being too slow-moving in handsets ultimately hurt them, then waiting five years to launch an M2M platform isn't going to help there either.
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