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It has been hard to look at any tech news websites recently and not see articles questioning the future of RIM. Its stock price has dropped over 50% so far this year and it has consistently lost market share over recent quarters as more smartphone users have opted for iPhones and Android devices.
It also always seems somewhat strange reading articles that pit the QNX OS (apparently more marketable than Neutrino?) as a new creation capable saving RIM’s smartphone business. Well, for one, QNX certainly isn’t new. QNX is actually one of the well established leaders in the embedded OS marketplace, with deployments across a wide variety of systems and devices that range from telecommunication infrastructure, to medical devices, to industrial automation to automotive infotainment stacks.
So while the first sighting of QNX in RIM clothing came via their recently released Playbook, the company has also promised a generation of “superphones” on the horizon that will be powered by the embedded OS. Despite some glitches and questions regarding the software feature set of the initial Playbook at launch, its functionality and performance were largely lauded in reviews.
Regardless of its Playbook implementation successes or failures, QNX’s viability as a phone OS may ultimately decide the fate of RIM (in its current instantiation), so it is worth considering a few factors:
One place where RIM could differentiate themselves, however, is by building up a branded ecosystem in other device types. Google is (slowly) trying to push Android into other consumer device types. When RIM first announced their intent to acquire QNX, they depicted a vision of “intelligent peripherals” that would reshape their customers’ experiences, beyond the phone. QNX’s lineage of success in many of these other embedded systems may, in fact, provide RIM with the footing to provide a more robust experience in some of these other devices than possible with an OS originally pigeon-holed for mobile phones.
Could the promise of this experience and breadth of devices help attract developers to a phone platform that has lost some of its cachet? In a market that has elevated Android to the leading OS in less than three years it is certainly possible.