Has RIM secretly re-written their OS?

I have lamented in the past about RIM’s Blackberry OS and how serious changes are needed to compete effectively with Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS.  The latest iteration, Blackberry 6.0 is improved, but I questioned whether it is enough to compete.  Recently, rumors have surfaced of a new iPad-like device from RIM called the BlackPad which brings the OS question back to the forefront.

The first assumption by most experts is that the BlackPad would be powered by RIM’s Blackberry 6.0 similar to how Apple leveraged iOS for the iPad. This made sense from a time to market and ease of implementation perspective, and is the only choice if RIM is committed to Blackberry OS over the long-term.  However, the latest rumor is that the BlackPad will be based on an OS created by QNX Software. (RIM acquired QNX back in April.) If true, this is a major shift for RIM and potentially represents the long awaited OS rewrite.  If RIM does release the BlackPad with QNX technology then I believe that the smartphones must follow.

A key differentiator in today’s smartphones are supporting ecosystems driven by third party application developers and application stores.  Apple has done a fantastic with its AppStore and Google is trying to emulate the success.  Unfortunately, RIM is a distant third in the race.  A completely new OS would likely require RIM’s third party developers to re-write their applications for the new platform.  These developers would balk at supporting both BB6.0 and QNX-based devices over an extended period of time.  The result is that RIM risks fragmenting their developer community and eroding their competitive position if their devices do not converge on one OS.  Thus, RIM must choose one OS to standardize on and their actions suggest that QNX would be the choice.

In summary, I believe that if the BlackPad does come with a QNX-based system then the future of today’s BB OS is vey much in doubt.  The very fact that they may be using different software for the BlackPad is a strong statement about their confidence in BB OS.

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2 thoughts on “Has RIM secretly re-written their OS?”

  1. I really cannot get with what RIM is trying to do here.

    1st off, whatever OS that propels the BlackBerry does not, IMO, seem suited to running a true smartphone.

    If that premise is true, then secondly, it makes sense that the BlackPad or whatever it will be called not use the BB OS.

    Thirdly, if I remember correctly, QNX was a purveyor of real-time operating systems. You know, the kinds that were a step away from ladder programming in terms of UI friendliness.

    If RIM’s previous OSs are any blueprint, it goes without saying that if RIM OS is repurposed for a slate device, it WILL be a dud. Conversely, if the QNX pedigree is to be used as a barometer, we get the same end result.

    On the other hand, if by some incredible move to sensibility, RIM had been working on a new OS using QNX’s real-time smarts, then there might be a change of fortune for RIM.

    I cannot help but think that unless there is a strage twist of fate, RIM is slated, no pun intended, to en up ad the ‘Gavilan’ of the slate era.

    1. John,

      Thank you for your comment. You and I agree. Releasing a new smartphone/tablet OS is a massive undertaking and it is a surprise that RIM is launching a QNX-based solution so soon after the acquisition. I believe that the BlackPad represents a seminole moment for RIM, and that their long-term success depends on the success of the new OS.

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