RIM looks to license BB10 for M2M markets

Caroline Gabriel/Wireless Watch
21 Aug 2012

MeeGo/Tizen supposedly has a bright future in automotive, and BlackBerry 10 in machine-to-machine, according to their backers.

RIM's CEO Thorsten Heins, who has been talking up licensing deals as a way to boost the upcoming platform's impact, now has his eyes on M2M. He told Bloomberg that the delayed BB10 is now in the final stages of testing and RIM is giving serious thought to potential licensees.

In the conventional handset and tablet space, these may be hard to find, despite the strong web credentials of the BlackBerry upgrade. Samsung recently denied interest, and already has a surfeit of OSs, and most OEMs which want a second string to Android, are likely to want something open source and more controllable.

This predicament has apparently set Heins' team thinking of other markets. Natural options could include automotive – the original target for QNX, the company which RIM acquired in 2010 and whose software partly underpins BB10 – and the broader M2M world, where high growth is expected in mobile devices. Of course, many of these, such as smart meters, will not require a fully fledged OS like BB10, nor will they deliver strong margins for software, but in-car systems are an exception.

“QNX is already licensed across the automotive sector. We could do that with BB10 if we chose to,” Heins said in the interview. “The platform can be licensed.” He added that RIM had received interest from the healthcare and smart grid sectors too, though he would not name any companies. QNX has also been used in power stations. "Smartphones are a part of our business, but we're looking way beyond this," he commented.

Mobile carriers, devices and chips are certainly moving beyond handsets to a host of different modules and gadgets, but whether Heins' comments reflect reality or desperation will depend how far these embedded objects develop a need for full web applications. Companies like Qualcomm and Verizon have developed software stores for M2M platforms but the scale of the requirement is unproven. If it does develop, the next step could be for RIM to open up its Black-Berry network to other industries, something Heins also hinted at.

RIM is also looking to sell off several of its minor units in a race for cash, including cloud services unit NewBay, which it only acquired 10 months ago. This is part of the firm's ongoing strategic review, according to Reuters, a review which could end up with far greater changes, even the sale or break-up of the BlackBerry maker.

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