By on March 28, 2014


Though BlackBerry owns a sliver of the smartphone market they once dominated, its QNX-based connected-car systems may be the best weapon they have in maintaining its lead over the companies that drove the Canadian company nearly out of the smartphone business.

Bloomberg reports QNX — the choice for connected-car systems by Ford, Porsche and BMW among others — is now facing competition from both Apple and Google for market and mind share of an industry expected to be worth $53 billion in 2018.

According to IHS Automotive analyst Mark Boyadjis, the bigger challenge will come from Google, whose Android operating system helped finish the job Apple’s iPhone began in 2007 in pushing out BlackBerry from the global smartphone market. Google — who also collaborates with the QNX division on occasion — has already put its mark on the Kia Soul and Mercedes-AMG SLS, and established the Open Automotive Alliance with Audi, General Motors, Honda and Hyundai.

Meanwhile, BlackBerry and Apple are on more equal footing with the latter’s CarPlay platform, bringing the connect-car/iPhone experience to Ferrari at the 2014 Geneva Auto Show this month.

As for QNX itself, the BlackBerry-owned division continues to expand further into the connected-car market, with Ford dropping Microsoft for the micro-kernel OS in its maligned Sync/MyFord Touch system last month. The Blue Oval’s action would place the automaker in good company, as QNX also powers systems used by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Hyundai, and Jaguar.

The biggest advantage QNX has over Google and Apple is its proven track record in running safety systems, where a software issue could mean the difference between life and death, which Boyadjis believes will carry BlackBerry and QNX into the future against the two technology titans from California.

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29 Comments on “BlackBerry Fights Google, Apple To Maintain Connected-Car Lead...”

  • avatar

    It would be a real shame if the most rock-solid-stable Operating System maybe ever were pushed into obscurity to be replaced by Android & iOS. Ultimately it would be engineering losing the battle against marketing.

    After patents, QNX is the most attractive asset Blackberry has. If anything belongs in car systems it’s QNX and it’s freaking awesome.

    • 0 avatar

      I would agree, QNX is really very good (I say this as someone still has a 4.0 floppy somewhere and still did some development back when 6.3 was current) and it would be a shame to see it fall to the wayside.

      The problem it (and VxWorks, to a degree) has is that Linux with the RT kernel patches is about as good, while being both cheaper and having a broad base of support, while WinCE/WinRT/Win Embedded allows easy development and an even broader support and development base. That hurts cash flow as far as enterprise (where absolute realtime isn’t an issue) is concerned.

      For automotive, it’s going to be hard. Computing power is so cheap and the push for decent integration with smartphones is so compelling that QNX might get kicked off the dash and into the ECU and body computers.

      RIM (I refuse to countenance “BlackBerry Inc”) is going to have to resist trying use QNX to hock BlackBerries (and I say that as someone who sports a Z10) and seeing QNX dragged down with them.

      Their best bet is keep QNX ahead of Linux RT, Windows RT and VxWorks on the embedded side by improving the development experience and opening the source code (which would help, especially vs Windows and VxWorks), and on the ICE side making QNX work flawlessly with IOS and Android.

      There’s a big opportunity here, but I am not sure if RIM has the talent pool to pull it off any longer. They lost a lot of good people over the past couple of years. I had some hope when they had the TAT team that we’d see QNX’s internals with something innovative as a UI, but since TAT left the stable it’s been all quiet on the UI front.

    • 0 avatar
      Dirk Stigler

      Android and iOS are both decent OSs (if not necessarily better than QNX) and, importantly, they have wide developer support and it would be a relatively short step to give either of them a ‘dashboard mode’ taking advantage of the apps they already have onboard. Really, in the near future it should be possible to get in your car, hang your nexus or ipad on a dash-mounted dock, and have it be your nav/music source/hands-free phone while you’re driving.

      What I don’t get is how Microsoft became the basis for two different in-car systems, with its horrible track record in the RTOS space and obviously better alternatives available. Now that’s a triumph of marketing over engineering…

      • 0 avatar

        “What I don’t get is how Microsoft became the basis for two different in-car systems”

        Developers, developers, developers!!!

        Microsoft’s development tools and support are fantastic, and the depth of support and resources in the diaspora can’t be understated.

        Banging out a decent UI in VS is easy; even I can do it. Doing the same with Eclipse and the old Photon microGUI? Not so much.

      • 0 avatar

        Microsoft has a long track record of corporate alliances and most likely offered their services for next to nothing or even free. Android is free in some cases but car makers would have to pay if they want access to the play markets and such. Apple’s market share is dwindling and while it will always have a big chunk of the market Apple is in the business to control their territory so they’re unlikely to want to be involved.

      • 0 avatar

        There’s a vast chasm between ‘decent’ and ‘mission ready’. Android and iOS are the former and QNX the latter. QNX is solid, stable and secure…to a degree that I’ve never seen in any other product, including embedded linux.

        Given the constant security problems in the mobile OS space, I don’t want that shit anywhere near my car except for maybe the UI (in a licensed product – and exactly the route Apple is taking with CarPlay).

        • 0 avatar

          > There’s a vast chasm between ‘decent’ and ‘mission ready’.

          This is the key to Blackberry success if it ever comes but not for the reasons usually stated.

          Car makers are not going to run as smartphones in entirety of infotainment systems in the near future, but might take a shot at QNX for the whole kit which gives bbry’s stuff on top a shot.

          Appl and Goog’s system as of now go into another mode to pair with their phones which is not exactly ideal.

          In this case, smaller and more nimble has its benefits given the great inertial change of the larger players to fork their efforts for cars. Google has the advantage here since they’re willing to anything a good ol Beta try, but their success with half-hearted efforts is also evident.

      • 0 avatar

        “Really, in the near future it should be possible to get in your car, hang your nexus or ipad on a dash-mounted dock, and have it be your nav/music source/hands-free phone while you’re driving.”

        The new Datsun being sold in developing markets has exactly that kind of setup, as a matter of fact.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    I hope that sometime in the future someone writes a book about Blackberry’s rise and fall.
    It would make a fascinating business case study.

    • 0 avatar

      It could be titled “Not Keeping It Up: The BlackBerry Story”

    • 0 avatar

      There’s a couple of good pieces out there now. I recommend The Verge’s piece, even if it doesn’t cover Thorsten Heins’ era.

    • 0 avatar
      Dirk Stigler

      Not a book, but here’s a nice detailed history that came out last year.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    The way I saw it demoed, Apple’s CarPlay platform is an app that runs on top of your regular automotive OS. Unplug your iPhone and you are back to Mercedes’s own infotainment/NAV system.

    QNX’s biggest advantage may be their safety track record, their second biggest advantage has got to be development tools. I think that may be the reason Ford dropped Microsoft. Microsoft’s automotive platform is based on a previous version of Windows Mobile, which never got any love from Microsoft or from developers.
    Ironically, many attribute Microsoft’s success with Windows (desktop) to their unflagging support of Windows developers.

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      That’s what I understand as well, that Apple’s Carplay is meant to coexist with OEM setups.

      CarPlay has relatively light hardware requirements, think compact variant of AppleTV which can send data such as physical car inputs back to the phone. However, Apple’s walled garden strikes again with current limits on what apps actually work: Apple Maps and iTunes yes, but Google Maps and Pandora no. 3rd party implementations are rumored but not announced.

      There’s definitely room for other parties. Might the rumored Android Projected Mode be compatible with other OSs?

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly. CarPlay provides the UI (as does Google in other cars, such as Audi) while QNX is still used as the core platform.

    • 0 avatar

      > their second biggest advantage has got to be development tools. I think that may be the reason Ford dropped Microsoft. Microsoft’s automotive platform is based on a previous version of Windows Mobile, which never got any love from Microsoft or from developers.

      LOL, no. VS is far superior to anything else, and interface with an OS is at the edges. Weren’t you the guy pretending to know something about computers not long ago?

    • 0 avatar

      Development tools?

      Microsft has better development tools than pretty much anyone, from a developer standard.

      WinMobile never got much “love”, but it’s still got Visual Studio support and more than enough API to work with.

      (I’m a professional programmer, and I do Windows work, but I use OSX at home and have kept an eye on both OSX and unix/Linux dev tools, so I know about the one but also have nothing against the other.

      QNX’s “it’s based on Eclipse!” is not compelling compared even to XCode, let alone Visual Studio.

      What really matters for car infotainment/secondary control systems is “don’t crash, and have good UX”.

      Anyone can manage the first one; both the unixish linux and OSX, and QNX kernels are stable, and so’s the NT kernel WinMobile uses.

      The latter, well… Apple’s the only player there who’s got a track record of not sucking.

      My parents, e.g. just got a Camry Hybrid.

      The UX on the nav and audio system is *abysmally halfassed*, because nobody at Toyota has *any idea at all* how to even think about the problem…

      Apple knows how to think about that problem.

      Even Microsoft, if they got to *write the UX, rather than the Car-maker*, could do better.)

      • 0 avatar

        > and so’s the NT kernel WinMobile uses.

        I think they used the prior iteration not NT for their car system.

      • 0 avatar

        Mac OS UX is pretty good. iOS is inconsistent as h3ll, though, you never know how to do something when you switch to a new app, because every app works differently. All the other mobile players (Android, WP8, BB10) are better in that regard.

      • 0 avatar

        @Sigivald: “The latter [=good user interface], well… Apple’s the only player there who’s got a track record of not sucking.”

        Sorry, but I have to disagree. It seems to be routine to praise Apple for their oh-so-intuitive user interfaces, but they’re just as idiosyncratic and have-to-be-learned as anything else.

  • avatar

    > with Ford dropping Microsoft for the micro-kernel OS

    It’s really confusing for writers to play up the kernel marketing angle when the actual interfaces on top (html in this case) have far more latency/stability issues.

    Though to be fair to Blackberry current demos from Goog/Apple aren’t much better since they operate in parallel to the car’s own systems instead of any sort of seamless cooperation.

  • avatar

    All I need is Bluetooth connectivity and my phone can handle the rest. Please for the love of all that is holy, keep knobs and buttons for everything else.

  • avatar

    +1000 on knobs and buttons…..things that stay in one place and don’t change their function when I look away!

  • avatar

    Blackberry is still behind Google and Apple in Connected Car Market because they have a lot of money and technological advancement in this segment –

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