After displacing Apple and Google in the smartphone sector BlackBerry

After displacing Apple and Google in the smartphone sector, BlackBerry is once again in the crosshairs –

When the 2024 Lincoln Nautilus went on sale last week, parent company Ford once again showcased its panoramic cockpit, which extends from the driver's side to the passenger's side of the dashboard. The infotainment system is now based on the Android Automotive branded information management system with pre-installed apps from the Android website. However, unlike the automotive Android system (also known as “Google Built-in”) found in cars like Polestar and Volvo, Ford has customized the user interface like smartphone makers do with Google's mobile operating system .

Previously, Ford used its QNX-based Sync interface, which powers more than 235 million infotainment systems on the road today. Like Ford Sync, QNX supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which are based on the user's smartphone and supported by the car's operating system. Some readers may remember that the ill-fated BlackBerry PlayBook tablet was the first time the QNX operating system was introduced to the public.

Android Auto and Android Automotive/Google Built-in are distinguished by the fact that the latter is a full-fledged in-car operating system that runs natively on the car's computer systems and manages all telemetry data stored on the dashboard, the driver's panel and other systems. In addition to Ford, car manufacturers that are integrating Google's new operating system into their vehicles include Volvo, Polestar, Honda, GM, Cadillac, Renault, Nissan, Buick and Chevrolet. Apple's equivalent of CarPlay, known as “next-generation Apple CarPlay,” is expected to launch in vehicles from Porsche and Aston Martin (among other manufacturers whose names have not yet been announced) later this year.

With drivers clearly preferring a smartphone-like experience in their car, the introduction of their fully integrated car OS variants seems to be taking a backseat to QNX and other car operating systems. Integrated car operation. Developed by BlackBerry following an acquisition in 2010, QNX is a UNIX-based operating system that powered the company's first and last consumer tablets. BlackBerry, formerly known as RIM (Research in Motion), was once the world's leading smartphone manufacturer, but experienced a rapid decline due to the rise of the iPhone after its launch in 2007 and subsequently after the rise of Android.

Despite the collapse of BlackBerry's smartphone business, QNX, along with its expertise in software security, allowed the company to stay afloat – in 2023, the company's gross revenue exceeded $800 million and still employed approximately 3,000 people. The launch of the new generation of Apple CarPlay and Android Automotive could bring an unfortunate feeling of déjà vu for the Canadian company. Although BlackBerry tried to downplay Toyota's customer loss in 2021 by saying it was focusing more on fully autonomous vehicles, the company has since seen its QNX market share decline by 18% in 2020 to 14% in 2022 , as Google was on the rise. By 2025, S&P Global predicts that BlackBerry's share of the embedded automotive operating system market will fall to just 5%.

A key advantage that could keep QNX relevant is support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto interfaces, while at the same time allowing automakers to maintain full control of their systems, a factor that some automakers may appreciate. However, Android Automotive could pose a greater threat to BlackBerry's QNX, as Google's open approach to software usage allows companies like Ford to control and customize Android Automotive's look and feel to suit each of its brands and even within vehicle product lines. While Android Automotive-equipped cars also support Apple CarPlay, it's unclear whether Apple will follow suit and support Android phones, the Android Auto interface and apps in upcoming vehicles from Porsche, Aston Martin and others.

Historically, this seems unlikely. It is rare for Apple to license its operating systems to other OEMs, leading to speculation that the move may be related to Apple's long-developed Apple Car project and could be designed to recoup some of the investment. It seems unlikely that Apple will allow automakers to change its interface, let alone support Android Auto. However, given Google's growing popularity among automakers, Apple clearly believes it has a role to play in the embedded software systems space. The Apple company, which is reportedly still working on a 2028 relaunch of its Apple Car, could find value for its own project in data from sensors and telemetry from vehicles that use its operating system.

While BlackBerry's outlook once again appears bleak, the company has fortunately diversified into other sectors and business interests since the decline of its smartphone business. In addition to using its embedded QNX operating system in cars, it is also used in other IoT applications across various industries. Its encryption and security software, a key feature of its BlackBerry smartphones, has also found other uses in businesses. This diversification could prove valuable as the company faces further disruption to one of its key businesses from all-too-familiar adversaries.