The BlackBerry Learns New Tricks

"Baby you can drive my car
Yes I'm gonna be a star"
-- From "Drive My Car" by Lennon/McCartney, 1965

Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) wants to drive your car.

Well, maybe not drive it, but RIM certainly wants a part of your in-car infotainment experience. The BlackBerry maker just bought QNX Software Systems from consumer electronics expert Harman International Industries (NYSE: HAR  ) for an undisclosed sum. The deal gives RIM access to a software platform that controls information and entertainment data flows in places like network routers, medical systems, and smart-home energy management applications -- but the crown jewel of QNX is its in-car infotainment system.

The company boasts a market-leading position in the fledgling automotive market for entertainment and information displays, and the client list includes brands from Honda Motor (NYSE: HMC  ) , Ford Motor (NYSE: F  ) , General Motors, Toyota (NYSE: TM  ) , and many more. Built on an Unix-like base with user interfaces based on Adobe Systems (Nasdaq: ADBE  ) Flash software, QNX control systems are designed to give consumers a powerful, consistent user experience across multiple platforms.

RIM hopes to "further integrate and enhance the user experience between smartphones and in-vehicle audio and infotainment systems,” according to co-CEO Mike Lazaridis. In other words, maybe you'll be able to control some of your car's functions from your BlackBerry, or easily share media between smartphones and the car’s infotainment system.

This is one way for RIM to differentiate its smartphones from the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPhone and other competitors, as nobody else can claim that snug of an integration between car systems and phones. I like the way RIM is thinking out of the box here, and it'll be fun to see what technical wizardry might bubble up from this cauldron. Besides, buying a company famed for its Flash products is a nice stab at Apple, who famously refuses to touch that technology with a 30-foot pole.

Will QNX make a difference for RIM? It certainly can't hurt, especially since the deal was cheap enough that the buyout price wasn’t disclosed. Tell me what you think in the comments below.

Editor's note: In a previous version of this article, QNX was incorrectly described as a "Linux-based" software platform. The Fool regrets the error.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. National Poetry Month is driving him all April long. Apple, Adobe Systems, and Ford Motor are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.


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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 10, 2010, at 2:14 PM, flyingrobots wrote:

    I would like to point out that QNX is certainly NOT Linux.

    It is a POSIX based OS much like Linux, but in terms of technology, is very different under the hood. It is one of the reasons it has obtained a lot of acceptance in the areas it is used.

    Also, it is not open source, your intellectual property is safe with QNX.

  • Report this Comment On April 12, 2010, at 8:41 AM, dnm240 wrote:

    Please do your research!

    FlyingRobots has it right. QNX was started in 1980 iirc -- Linus Torvalds would have been roughly 11 years old at that time, and linux was a distant dream.

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