BlackBerry's QNX: Why it's so valuable to Apple, Google, auto industry

BlackBerry's QNX: Why it's so valuable to Apple, Google, auto industry

Summary: For smartphone giants looking to take their experiences to auto dashboards, all roads at least tie into BlackBerry's QNX platform. Here's why.

Apple's CarPlay connects into BlackBerry's QNX platform.


Apple's CarPlay has to ride on top of BlackBerry's QNX platform for in-auto entertainment systems. Ford was reportedly pondering a swap from Microsoft to QNX to for its Sync platform. And it's highly likely that the front end of Google's Android in-vehicle efforts are also going to have a QNX play.

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So when BlackBerry CEO John Chen calls QNX one of the crown jewels of the company he's not kidding. Here's what Chen said in December on BlackBerry's last earnings call:

QNX is probably one of the crown jewels. Every time I come here, our partners call me and customers call me that really want to work with us on QNX...The plan is to invest in this and grow. The plan is to go by other vertical because we are doing very well in automotive vertical, we are going to continue to focus on that, but we're going to start looking in adjacent verticals to expand the business. In addition to that, we're going to build a platform that are cloud based, that is going to be machine-to-machine based architecture.

The big question is what is QNX worth? BlackBerry can't base its entire turnaround on QNX, but rest a assured the car platform will play a key role. Strategically, QNX---along with the enterprise unit---may be the most valuable things at BlackBerry.

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Apple and BlackBerry have had a long-standing partnership on QNX as a way to connect iOS to in-car systems.

In many respects, QNX serves as a middleware layer for in-car infotainment. News surfaced last week that Apple's CarPlay, which launched with iOS 7.1 on Monday, was based on QNX.

Jefferies analyst Peter Misek references QNX in a throwaway line in a research report about Apple:

CarPlay is an in-car infotainment system that allows iPhone users to make calls, access maps, message, and listen to music. Apple has listed 15 auto manufacturer partners including Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo. The CarPlay software is powered on BlackBerry's QNX platform. CarPlay will be available in select cars in 2014.

When you look at CarPlay you'd never know QNX is there. Auto manufacturers and now smartphone players will apparently control the interface and user experience. That fact may mean QNX's flexibility is even more important.

qnx integrations


BlackBerry can't comment on its involvement with Apple's CarPlay, but the QNX platform does specialize in connectivity to mobile devices. QNX, acquired by BlackBerry (then Research in Motion) in 2010, provides operating systems, software development tools and engineering services for everything from autos to appliances to medical devices and control systems. QNX has more than 40 automakers---Acura, Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Mercedes, Land Rover Range Rover, Porsche, Toyota, Volkswagen---in the fold.

A look at the QNX stack reveals how hard it would be to totally cut BlackBerry's subsidiary out of the car entertainment ecosystem.

qnx platform


Rest assured QNX will stick around and even thrive. Why? QNX is the Switzerland that the auto industry needs to preserve margins, deliver value added services, customize the experience and keep smartphone players from dominating.

If that Switzerland role can be cultivated in other verticals such as appliances (where Android wants to be everywhere) and medical devices, QNX may indeed by BlackBerry's crown jewel.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Apple, Emerging Tech, Google, BlackBerry

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  • The best RTOS out there, bar none

    I first learned of QNX about 20 years ago, they were a neighbour. Its always been an astonishingly advanced technology. Generations ahead of all the others in terms of achieving a lean and clean design.
    • There aren't many choice for RTOS anyway

      It's either QNX or Wind River. They are the most trust name for embedded system.

      And then there is Ford Sync which is based on Windows CE, but the problem is nobody sure what's the future of CE... And Windows Embedded is not RTOS and nobody would put it in a car.
      • Keep in mind the "in a car" part

        They're not talking about running the whole car with Apple or WinCE.. it's just the infotainment system. They might want an RTOS because it'll let you get more performance from less hardware than something like embedded Linux or embedded Windows, but none of these things are going into critical systems in the car. Ok, sure, they very well could be QNX doing those systems, too... if it's good enough for nuclear power plants, I'll take it my car. But the part you're interacting with, the infotainment system, is at best getting a tiny bit of very controlled input from the real car software. They're not about to let a smartphone app affect the operation of the car in any way.

        Kind of a shame, too.. not that cars are getting servo-controls in their steering (for active lane keeping, autoparking, etc) I was all set to write myself a James Bondian remote control for my next car. Not possible...
  • Trust

    To me a big narrative that runs parallel to this story is that of keeping nefarious monopolistic companies from dominating many areas of our lives. This is a security and individual rights issue long term.
    • monopoly? GNX.... or Apple?

      Hehe, I thought if I ever heard Blackberry and Apple in the same sentence with monopoly, it would be Apple at the butt end... this is kind of role reversal.

      I wouldn't worry about QNX or Blackberry being nefarious... they are still fighting night and day just to survive...

      Apple on the other hand? Two weeks ago they got caught up in a huge security scandal after the world found out a bad code job left peoples' personal information like banking passwords out in the open... And now where did that story go? Behind the story about the Department of Defense purchasing more Apple products? Apple has the world by the balls so tight they can get away with metaphorical murder and still come out unscathed. Its not a monopoly on communication, because we've still got Android and Windows (and Blackberry 10, which is an excellent operating system that can now run Android apps)... but it does grip enough of the market of "trendy" and desired technology that it has become immune to mistakes.
  • Linux Foundation

    So FORD decided to use QNX instead of Linux ... they have the better idea ... again ... WinCE (or wince) was their first "better idea" ... yawn.

    Did you hear the one about the two losers that came to the dance stag and decided to dance with each other ....
    • QNX

      QNX is a Unix RTOS micro-kernel that is used in a variety of devices including the world's highest capacity internet routers (Cisco), flight simulators, air traffic control, shipping navigation systems, high speed train controllers, in-car infotainment and control systems, warehouse distribution systems, cable TV delivery, Hollywood special effects systems, smartphones, mobile devices, hospital/medical technology (e.g. ECG machines, angiography, cardic monitors, cancer treatment, LISIK systems), casino gaming systems, and more.

      It's hardly a loser.
  • Define "long standing"

    "Apple and BlackBerry have had a long-standing partnership on QNX"

    Long standing? Blackberry only bought QNX in 2010.....