RIM likely to use QNX tablet operating system in BlackBerry smartphones

bb-playbook-frontThe Waterloo-based maker of the popular BlackBerry smartphone, Research In Motion (RIM), continues to face intensifying competition in the mobile market space coupled with more analyst uncertainty, putting significant downward pressure on the company’s stock over the last six months.

The consumer segment is becoming more and more important for RIM, but consumers are beginning to opt for competing mobile smartphones that offer more advanced multimedia and gaming support (with communication nearly on par), including a superior Internet browsing experience comparative to current BlackBerry smartphones.

Only days ago, RIM announced the new BlackBerry PlayBook, a tablet computer that is powered by the QNX operating system, which is scheduled to hit stores in the first quarter of 2011, with pricing yet to be revealed.

The BlackBerry PlayBook offers many advanced features, including the QNX operating system, dual HD cameras (full 1080p HD video recording support on the back 5MP camera), video conferencing, smaller device design, a 1GB dual-core processor with 1GB of RAM, and a microHDMI port, among many other features.

RIM is marketing the device as an enterprise centric tablet computer, but that has left Wall Street analyst more uncertain about the viability of the product, coupled with concerns of lower sales, as the company will not launch the PlayBook in time for this Christmas holiday season.

Analysts hoped the tablet would be marketed more towards consumers, who now represent an increasingly significant segment of total revenue generated for the company.

On April 9, 2010, RIM announced it had acquired the rights to the QNX operating system, at which time the system source code was no longer available to developers.

After the acquisition, RIM further developed QNX to power its tablet PlayBook.

Citing advantages of the new OS, a source that spoke to us on condition of anonymity, says the company is strongly considering replacing BlackBerry OS with the new QNX operating system in future BlackBerry smartphones, with the first BlackBerry powered by QNX to launch as soon at Q4 2011.

RIM traditionally used its proprietary BlackBerry operating system to power its handsets, but the system has proved dated for the consumer segment (and probably for business users as well) compared to new mobile operating systems, including Google’s ever evolving Android mobile OS.

QNX OS includes the new WebWorks SDK from RIM that fully includes support for JavaScript (including support for various frameworks like jQuery, among others), HTML5, and CSS3. The complete solution would allow developers to leverage APIs and BlackBerry push notifications within their apps. Additionally, QNX fully supports Adobe AIR, which could see existing popular applications found on other platforms like iOS to be ported over to BlackBerry with a new tool Adobe is readying for developers that would allow them to create new applications for a variety of other platforms that support Adobe Flash (like QNX) from their existing code-base effortlessly with the tool.

Despite the advanced features of QNX, it still might not be enough in the short run to win over consumers who already have a lot more variety in terms of the availability of a wider assortment of different applications that are available on other platforms.

The QNX system is probably the key to revive the BlackBerry platform, and could importantly lead to better more quality third party applications to become available on the platform, a strategy that has driven growth for top rivals like Apple who has more than 250,000 applications in its App Store, compared to just over 10,000 found on BlackBerry App World.

The RIM stock (TSE:RIM) is trading up about one and a half percent at $50.7 per share in early morning trading today.


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Tahir holds a Bachelor Commerce Finance degree from Ryerson University in Toronto. He is planning to purse an MBA in Finance. Write to tahir@business2press.com
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    RIM likely to use QNX tablet operating system in BlackBerry smartphones

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