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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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Sarah Thomas 5/13/2014 | 12:13:29 PM
A more open BB In other BlackBerry news, the company today said it would let other MDM companies manage its devices even if the company doesn't use BES. http://www.cnet.com/news/blackberry-opens-up-allows-other-companies-to-manage-bb10-devices/
Liz Greenberg 5/13/2014 | 12:21:40 PM
Re: A more open BB Great article Sarah, I think that Blackberry may have had some missteps and maybe changing its focus helped contribute to those missteps but it should allow them a bright and profitable future if they can become a hub in the IOT.  I would really like to see them succeed.
Sarah Thomas 5/13/2014 | 12:24:44 PM
Re: A more open BB I would too, but what do you think -- is five years too long to wait? The M2M market is exploding, but that's all happening right now.
Liz Greenberg 5/13/2014 | 1:15:39 PM
Re: A more open BB I don't know if the time is relevant as long as the product and strategy are relevant and useful.  Blackberry is still known for innovation even if they did move a bit slowly and were slight out of step.  This should be the make or break for them.
Mitch Wagner 5/13/2014 | 1:56:44 PM
Too late I'm skeptical. If I'm an equipment manufacturer, why would I want to go with BlackBerry rather than Android?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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