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The BlackBerry Learns New Tricks

By Anders Bylund - Updated Apr 6, 2017 at 1:34PM

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Your BlackBerry might become the remote control for the car and your house. The iPhone can't say that.

"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.

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Stocks Mentioned

BlackBerry Stock Quote
$5.74 (-1.03%) $0.06
Apple Inc. Stock Quote
Apple Inc.
$137.44 (-2.98%) $-4.22
Ford Motor Company Stock Quote
Ford Motor Company
$11.81 (-1.91%) $0.23
Honda Motor Co., Ltd. Stock Quote
Honda Motor Co., Ltd.
$24.78 (1.39%) $0.34
Toyota Motor Corporation Stock Quote
Toyota Motor Corporation
$157.11 (0.37%) $0.58
Harman International Industries, Incorporated Stock Quote
Harman International Industries, Incorporated

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