Could RIM’s future be in cloud connected cars?

QNX and Cloud Connected Cars
By Chris Umiastowski on 20 Apr 2012 01:55 pm EDT
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When RIM bought QNX back in April of 2010, many industry pundits suspected that the Java-based BlackBerry OS would die, and QNX would form the basis of a new operating system. This was clearly correct.

But at the time, Mike Lazaridis, a founder of RIM and then co-CEO, sidestepped questions about the future of BlackBerry OS. I remember talking to Jim Balsillie about QNX at BlackBerry World one month after RIM bought them. Instead of Jim answering my question directly, he said, "What did Mike say?" I told him Mike had casually stated that "The car is the ultimate accessory for a BlackBerry". Jim smiled as if to suggest, "good cover".

We're sitting on the cusp of a complete re-write of RIM. The executive team, the software, the hardware, and hopefully the marketing too. And outside of CrackBerry (see Kevin's discussion on the Playbook-powered Porsche), there aren't too many people talking about RIM's opportunity in the vehicle market.

But there is at least one other RIM watcher taking notice. That person is Gus Papageorgiou from Scotia Capital. Not too long ago he put out an interesting research note discussing the potential for RIM to expand its service revenue by connecting cars to the RIM cloud.

His description makes a lot of sense. Forget the traditional BlackBerry. This isn't necessarily about email or any other core functions you'll find on a smartphone. Instead, think about what car manufacturers and customers might want. How about automated notices of service requirements? What about firmware updates to some of the car's electronic systems? Location awareness? The list here is really endless.

RIM's cloud infrastructure can essentially host the equivalent of a BES for cars. And the car itself runs QNX, so it gets treated much like any enterprise BlackBerry connected to a network.

The revenue for RIM would likely come from a monthly service fee. Papageorgiou points out that car companies should be able to bury the present value of the service fees into the sticker price of the car. In fact, on high end cars, this would be a no brainer.

There are a lot of cars out there. And practically none of them are "smart" yet. So this is an obvious market waiting to be served by someone. Why not RIM. They have the experience with the NOC and they have the connections into car companies with QNX.

Not that this necessarily matters, but Thorsten Heins is German. There are 5 very successful German car brands - Porsche, Audi, Mercedes, BMW and Volkswagen. It would be nice to see Thorsten embed RIM's services into the heart of the German car industry.

There has to be another billion dollars of service revenue (quarterly) waiting to be had here. I think RIM probably is targeting this market. But there is really no point in them going hog-wild talking about it quite yet. It's probably still a bit early days, and nobody will give them much credit for it. Better for them to silently execute a major deal and then start talking.

Separately, and probably a topic for another day ... I would really like to see RIM bring some QNX love to the airline industry. Get rid of those disgusting excuses for in-flight entertainment systems (at least the ones on Air Canada). They're powered by an embedded Microsoft OS and they crash more often than a child driving a bumper car.

Reader comments

Could RIM’s future be in cloud connected cars?

29 Comments

one of the sessions at BBJam is about car connected apps, so they`re definitley thinking about it. also AT+T`s watson has been placed into the QNX Porsche, so its past being just a theory :)

Yeah it would be a big step ahead for rim if we can integrate/attache our 4g PB to our cars and whenever we need it for business outside of the cars to take it with us "Click and Go"
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i would love a paybook nav in my car just like QNX car 2. lets hope they do it not just show us they can

Apparently WestJet is outfitting some of their fleet with the new 8" Samsung tabs......missed opportunity by RIM?

Http://t.co/KwevAfsp

samsung tabs are a different story, they are either rented out or something like that, but infotainment Chris talking about is the well connected Aerospace in-flight Infotainment and Management Systems for example always on and always connected, live tv, live radio, video library, in-app purchases, credit card slot/nfc, connected to flight command center etc

Much better option than those rubbish back of seat DVD players. Coming to a plane headrest near you too I reckon.

Exactly!! This is a wonderful thought... And even better, what if say Ford or GM signed RIM up to put a variation of the playbook in every single dash board... That's a whole lot of device sales potentially there... Common RIM - do us proud.

A reader (on twitter) asked Alec Saunders why RIM couldn't leverage QNX in the car to encourage Skype, Netflix etc to develop apps for the PlayBook. Alec's response was "We're way ahead of you there".

Yes, I think it was almost 2 weeks ago now, but he did tweet that. And it makes sense. I am sure part of the reason Microsoft bought Skype was to integrate it with their Sync car system. But QNX is in many more vehicles, so the more expeditious way to expand the use of Skype is by integrating in car systems that use the platform. It would be very sweet if that is announced this year at Blackberry World.

very thoughtful article, big hug to Chris!

I think the telematics sector is where RIM should really find the "gold", why not be a TSP? There's huge market potential for TSP (well, with hardware equipped especially, here we say QNX) around the world. I really hope the German at RIM pays attention to the real shift of RIM's growth strategy, and just leave the smartphone/tablet for a bit while, 'cause we'll see the apple being eaten in a short while...

Isn't the whole point about QNX that it was designed from the ground up to be a secure, truly multitasking OS for small and embedded devices, while both iOS and Android are based on a cut down version of an operating system originally designed for minicomputers?

QNX neutrino is probably a couple of years ahead of the competitors in terms of security, multitasking and efficient use of resources. If RIM can get past the "Apple hump" and the following "Samsung hump", they could indeed be better placed to benefit from the smart appliance (yes, I'm including future cars in appliances) than the competition.

It won't be easy though.

If BB OS goes away it will take many years. There are many of us that love it today and see no need for changing to anything else.
Just saying. I welcome BB10 but I'm perfectly happy with my Bold 9930. Nothing else needed for me. It is perfect to meet my priorities.

Now this is a sweet vision, and not far fetched at all. This is something I've been craving for to help with working on the road.

My only concern is safety. If talking on the phone while driving isn't bad enough, just think of people using the full capability of a tablet.

I've been telling people for a year now that they need to remember that RIM is now much more than handsets (one of the reasons I'm 100% against changing the corporate name to BlackBerry).

If they develop their strategy correctly with the transportation sector (yes, trains, planes, and mostly automobiles) and embedded systems, they can develop a business that dwarfs their handset business. If anything, they should consider changing the name to QNX (though I think RIM is just fine).

been thinking this for some time too.. and not just for cars. QNX is used in building control systems (like security access systems, HVAC, alarms, fire, etc) and could easily extend into home automation (like the Rogers monitoring service for example - control your lights/appliances/thermostat, whatever). there is a ton of potential that RIM should be exploring that goes far and beyond smart phones -- and yet, the smartphone (or tablet) could be at the heart of it all!

telematics is where the cash is going to come from....every system requires monitoring, which would be done directly through the NOC, and directly viewed realtime on a BB device....grow this idea big RIM....true value and leverage here....

Ps: Linking all the car systems into a vehicle NOC tracking / data sharing system...traffic / patterns is a huge field to get into...

I am all for this idea. RIM needs to leverage their assets to their full potential. QNX is the strongest asset RIM has and they need to generate revenue and brand awareness using this asset as much as possible. The problem is I fear RIM may be getting ready to sell their hardware business because they have hired jp Morgan. I hope this is not the case because the mobile computing future RIM has been talking about needs fantastic hardware and RIM should be the ones making it. They are in a fantastic position for growth in the next mobile revolution and they need to hang on until they can fully realize the potential of the company and the wonderful QNX operating system.

Just a quick question fellow Crack-Berry-Heads: If RIM has already owned QNX for over two years and QNX is already in a lot of cars out there then why haven't we seen this level of connectivity already from them? Cheers!
--Joz

Long Live The RIMpire!!!

I'm pretty certain RIM knew the full potential of QNX and the Cloud well before they acquired QNX.
Whenever I read, or hear some idiot claiming RIM is dead (or anything similarly stupid), I know that person has no idea of what they're talking about. What really amazes me is the number of idiotic statements coming out of writers for the so called "Technology Websites." It's becoming increasingly obvious that a good number of these writers aren't really paying attention to what happening in the real world.

This is certainly good but the idea still needs refinement...because obviously there needs to be multiple displays/systems; certainly, the driver watching films while driving or going on skype doing video conference is not the safest thing in the world. These stuff would be useful for people on the backseat but GPS/navigation would be more useful for the driver...

At least multiple separate displays either through multitasking or separate systems are required not just a single playbook.

RIM has tons of expertise, technology and assets to generate billions and beat Apple or anyone else. The challenge is to execute and make them work in real life..That is what Apple did..created ONE phone with easy of use, allowed jalibreacking so teen agers can hack it, touch screen, built the ecosystem and in few years turned into 500 billions company.
RIM has lot but just matter of leveraging it and for that you need visinory CEO n I hate to say Thorsten is not of them..The should have got the CEO of one big boys from USA.

In case you hadn't noticed, all the successful CEOs of large US companies are either at Google, past it or dead. And look how well Elop is turning out at Nokia...RIM gives away possibly half a billion dollars or so on PlayBooks and posts a small loss, Nokia seems to be posting accelerating losses. And then what about HP? Fiorina, Hurd, and the one who's already forgotten. Apple share price is in decline now Jobs is dead. Meanwhile, Samsung grows and grows and nobody outside Korea knows who runs it.

Myself, I think the day of the American celebrity CEO is now extremely over. It was part of the environment that led to financial meltdown.

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I am in the office machine world and when I talk about office furniture like at Ergotron.com alot of people ask me well what do you got for the car!!

Being around a computer alot and one in my car all of the time. I have considered such a stand for the front seat in my car. The cops have them why cant we right?
I would rather mount a tablet though and bypass a bulky stand for a notebook. GREAT IDEA AND PEOPLE WANT IT!