Analysts Claim RIM is Dead but they Underestimate the QNX OS


RIM secret weapon

Recently, analysts from all over the Internet have been saying that RIM is dead in the water and it’s only a matter of time until they become like Palm. It’s hard to not believe them too. Sure, RIM does have 40 million or so subscribers but much of their growth is coming from the consumer market, which they’re losing ground to Android and iPhone. The latest attempts to address the fierce competition for consumers includes the BlackBerry Torch, of which analysts claim sales weren’t great, and BlackBerry 6, which even RIM modestly called “not an evolutionary leap”. But does all of this really mean RIM is dead? I recently read a great article from Alec Saunders’ blog, addressing this issue and it’s an article many of these analysts would do well reading. The Secret Weapon that RIM is working on, which could be the equivalent of a giant Death Star of doom for Apple and Google, is the QNX acquisition.

The QNX acquisition has been long thought to be focused on an automotive venture for RIM. In actuality, RIM acquired this company to work on their OS and they could be the ones designing OS 7. The QNX OS is an incredibly versatile platform that runs everything from high speed trains to the laser camera system powering a space shuttle. Alec sums up the benefits of the QNX OS nicely here:

For those who don’t know QNX, it’s a micro-kernel based operating system with a sophisticated graphical user interface, a modern POSIX-based tool-chain, and a fully distributable architecture. In layman’s terms, that means it’s more stable than LINUX, runs in less memory than any of LINUX, OS X, or Windows – even the embedded versions, pretty to look at for users, and easy to develop software for using skills that are relatively common in the industry. Oh, and did I mention that it sports a touch screen UI, and a fully integrated flash development environment?

A shift to a better OS would have long term benefits for RIM but isn’t without it’s short term frustrations. Even with the shift to BlackBerry 6, developers face a headache when porting their applications and taking advantage of the new APIs. The shift to a QNX OS will likely cause the same problems in porting, and there could be a large initial dropoff of applications available. On the other hand, if the platform provides a simple way to develop and run apps, RIM could see their app marketplace grow exponentially. Considering it took them only around a year to get 10,000 apps in their marketplace with some of the worst developer tools imaginable, a new and easy way to develop for the BlackBerry OS could surpass that it in half the time. There is also the fact that many apps could run as a virtual machine on QNX, making the porting process much simpler.

Maybe now is the time to buy RIM stock. While all the analysts are downgrading RIM’s stock, they seem to be leaving out some pretty big technology expectations.

  • Irfan Baig

    I’ll have to see it to believe it.

  • Alec Saunders

    Hey Kyle,

    I think the key thing to remember with analysts is that they’re all about the short term. Call it wrong, and a bunch of investors who invest via your firm will start calling their brokers and bitching. Short term, I think RIM’s stock is in for a rough ride, and on that count the analysts are likely spot on. But it’s also very possible that RIM, executing smartly, could prove all the short term investors and analysts wrong over the long term. The thing we should all NOT get caught up in is the idea that RIM is going the way of Palm. They’re a long way from that IMO.

    Cheers, Alec.

  • Mark Rejhon

    I’ve been a big user of BlackBerries for many years (I’m Mark Rejhon, after all) and I have to keep myself exposed to other platforms such as Apple’s and Google’s, for my line of mobile software development work. I am witnessing many people hating BlackBerries and wanting to leave for a different phone, and even I carry an iPod Touch now (with 3.6 gigabytes of gaming apps installed).

    I do think QNX is potentially the Next Big Thing for RIM.

    I would go out to predict that RIM OS 7 would be QNX based, and continue to use a virtual machine to run legacy BB apps, but would possibly open up to a new kind of easy BlackBerry development. The applications themselves don’t necessarily need to run at the ‘realtime’ level of QNX, that being kept for the critical stuff (like phone calls, modem, and TCP/IP stack), but QNX is kind of like UNIX in many ways.

    For RIM, this may be as Apple moving from macOS 9 to macOS X — where the Mach microkernel and the brand new GUI became introduced, while retaining compatibility with MacOS 9 apps for a time period. A multithreaded, smooth-running GUI is sorely needed - based on 2D/3D acceleration. Modern Desktop OSes (MacOS X, Win 7) as well as Apple iOS do this now, and there needs to be easy “eye-candy” programming API’s in BlackBerry. As a Java programmer (J2ME / RIM JDE / etc), it’s a lot harder to create eye candy in these environments, so most BlackBerry apps look more boring and rudimentary than equivalent iPhone apps (for the same number of software development hours)

    Let’s hope RIM pulls this off well to stay a double-digit-percentage market contender in 5-10 years from now. Some might be pessimistic — Maybe 10% and less than half of Apple’s market — but I would hate to see RIM to go away.

  • Diego Nei

    Well… It’s been buying a lot for a dead company… I can’t see any business invest this hard without some sort of surprise under their sleeve…

  • Anonymous

    Given RIM track record of “innovation”, this “secret death star of doom” you speak of may not see its light in million years

  • Kyle McInnes

    QNX could be OS 7. OS 5 was launched Fall 09, OS 6 was announced in August 2010. OS 7 announced in summer/fall 2011?

  • k of BlackBerryInsight

    Guys look: Who of you knows what RIM is running under the hood for years? RIM’s so called BlackBerry OS is just the Java VM and respectively the application layer on top of a core OS. That’s what Java is: it is not an OS, it’s VM needs one to run on. Like mentioned correctly, QNX has a very stable high performance, low battery using micro kernel which is even used in navigation systems and other boxes that run on “low-end” hardware and therefore it must provide high performance without using too much battery power.

    So my guess is: QNX is the micro-kernel provider for RIM’s core OS for many many years already (since switched away from their home-grown C stuff). RIM then just put their “BlackBerry OS” on top of the QNX kernel and bundled everything together onto their phones. Therefore, I don’t think that they are developing the next “big and revolutionary thing” with QNX; I think they are just doing the only logical step forward in the evolution of the BlackBerry OS for creating a more competitive and more exciting new future for all of us - the BlackBerry users and abusers (how people say …).

    That was a great last phrase. I am such a Picasso poet :)

  • Kyle McInnes

    I couldn’t help but laugh at “(I’m Mark Rejhon, after all)”. It’s true though. What would blackberryforums be without you? :)

  • Kyle McInnes

    Thanks for the comment, Alec. RIM going the way of Palm just seems like a conversation trend right now. It’s like how many think Microsoft will by RIM.

  • Respighifan

    Yawn - an Android fanboy lurks again………

  • Vincentclement1

    I don’t quite understand how RIM is losing ground in the consumer market. Anytime I see ‘sales statistics’, RIM is increasing market share. I keep hearing that the enterprise market is stale right now due to the poor economy. The only place RIM can be increasing market share is in the consumer market. I know of at least 8 people who have purchased a BlackBerry in the past few months. I don’t know of anyone who has purchased an iPhone or Android-based smartphone.

    Let’s ignore the analysts. Their only purpose is to manipulate stock prices through poorly-worded press releases. If these guys really knew how companies worked, they would be owning and operating their own company.

  • Jeff Mixon

    QNX could be RIM’s Death Star-a completely useless weapon against a fast-moving, highly adaptive enemy that ultimately gets blown to bits because of an apparent ridiculously huge design flaw.

    I like BlackBerry devices, and I can appreciate that RIM is a precarious position. Their existing OS is essentially dead; its codebase is just too old and not up to snuff with the demand of today’s mobile users. Their business model has also been obsoleted. Today, Google can pump tons of resources into the Android OS while HTC can do the same with the hardware. The result is two experts meeting in the middle to make one killer phone. RIM has to do both by themselves, and neither one is easy. Sure, Apple has pulled it off to an extent, but their real success is in their marketing, not their product. Just look at the lack of multi-tasking and Antennagate to see that.

    But recreating the BlackBerry OS on QNX is a huge gamble. Who cares if QNX consumes x% less memory than linux-based Android? Tens or hundreds of thousands of developers know linux. How many know QNX? RIM already suffers from trying to entice developers to write apps for their platform. Changing it completely is definitely not going to make that any easier. In the end, users are going to care about what they can DO with the OS, not that is has a POSIX-based tool-chain. On the other hand, RIM just doesn’t have that many options. They have to try something.

    I really think RIM should consider taking Google’s free Android OS and then building the BlackBerry specific functionality on top of it, much like HTC or Samsung do with Sense or TouchWiz, respectively, but to a much further extent. They get the best of both worlds-an in-place, highly extensible mobile OS with tons of developers, tools, and other resources already in place and they get the BlackBerry security and usability we are all expect from a BlackBerry. Not to mention they might then be able to focus more on continuing to make great devices, and not having to play eternal catching up the software side. One can dream at least…

  • Sam

    exactly…say what you want about RIM’s OS or their hardware, but these guys are not stupid when it comes to running a top notch company. they wouldn’t be spending so much money if they didn’t have confidence in the economics of their long-term strategy.

    i have a storm2 and love it, but of course i wish it had a 1ghz processor, more memory and a higher resolution. that being said, if they release a touchscreen phone with this type of hardware and an even more efficient and flashy os, i think they will clean up.

    more people i know use blackberries than anything else, and i bet even more would switch to blackberry if it was more technically impressive.

  • Clinton Roane

    I agree with you fully that RIM should just take on the free Android and work from there. Many developers know it and the tools are already there. I was just discussing this with a developer last night who was trying to figure out if he should develop for RIM or Android. He likes RIM devices but says everything is there already for the Android. In all honesty I just bought and older Blackberry Curve (wish I could have gotten a newer model) but I am soooo happy with this RIM device and I would like to develop for it, I already have Android development software on my systems.

  • Jim

    QNX is potentially the Next Big Thing for everyone, not just RIM.

    I first used QNX on embedded systems in 1984. It is too valuable to end up another footnote in history. The issues that Android is working to solve - have been solved
    in QNX for over two decades. And I really doubt that you will see Android in a “Life At Risk” controller, or see Android certified as a “Real-Time O/S” any time soon.

    Phones, Tablets, Desktops, Telecomm Systems, Entire Networks, Other Devices, and even Vehicles, that can work cooperatively to better serve an enterprise’s needs.

    RIM… Please Don’t Screw this Up.

  • Suede Pumps

    I’ll post the same information to my blog, thanks for ideas and great article.

  • rim

    QNX is on the playbook and it looks awesome!

    corporations are going to be gobbling those playbook’s up like hotcakes.

    expect the same once it makes it’s way onto the phones. perhaps on the storm 3!

    buying qnx was rim’s best move and it will pay dividends shortly.

    the ipad looks like an overpriced toy next to the playbook ;)

  • Scott

    QNX solves the problem of devices pauses, as it handles inter-process communication like no other. QNX is not linux based, but linux like, not quite something completely different, but too different to call it a fork.

    Also, the Analysts are just down-right wrong. Save extremely poor investment issues, and perhaps bad money management, Blackberry is in it for the long haul. There is simply too many companies heavily invested in the Blackberry infrastructure. The security on these devices is, and always has been second to none. The fact of the matter is, if you need a secure mobile device, you need a Blackberry, because nothing else even gets close to measuring up to it in that regards.

  • Pcplcprogrammer

    QNX is the most stable and configurable OS in the world. That’s my opinion anyway. If RIM could deploy it in a similar fashion as Google and HTC has the Android OS (which again in my opinion is several orders of magnitude better than anything else on the market, even the iPhone which Apple simplified much, it’s boring) I moved from a Window Mobile 6.5 HTC Tilt 2 to an Android 2.2 HTC EVO. The new device is light years ahead of the old one. I can’t understand why anyone would choose to design a device with Windows Mobile. It has always been the most pathetic excuse for an OS since it’s inception, and has only improved slightly from the Win CE’s original release to Mobile 6.5 and whatever version CE is on. And Windows Phone. What a joke. I’m a EE who works with devices such as Allen-Bradely’s newest line of industrial touch-screens. AB chose to put Windows CE their the new touch-screens. What a mistake. On the other end of the spectrum I’ve developed extensively in QNX 4 and now I’m beginning to learn QNX 6. I have always wandered why we don’t see QNX on devices such as AB’s touch-screens. I suppose it’s sort of like the old cliché, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”. QNX is very similar to Linux in that it’s a POSIX based OS, but that’s where the similarity ends. QNX puts tools in the hands of the developer that an uninformed Windows developer would be utterly astounded. QNX comes with all the tools needed to create the exact OS image needed, and with QNX 6 it is the most awesome and complete development suite out there. If a kernel were designed for the HTC EVO for example, allowing QNX to control the critical processes and a virtual machine installed to run most of the GUI, you would have a device another step up from Android. QNX does not crash and it never needs rebooting. If you have an unruly process you can kill it without bringing everything else down. I really believe if RIM is sharp enough to design using the real benefits of QNX and market it properly, they really could have the next best think. And with QNX running on a BB it could be used to do things never dreamed of before. Imagine in 5 to 10 year connecting your BB to the auto navigation system in your car just before a long drive. Then sit back and relax while QNX takes control of your car and drives you to your destination. QNX is that rock solid!

  • anonymous

    You are clueless my friend…
    QNX, which you probably never programmed or use at all is an OS restricted to marginal circles of engineers in need of a real time OS with the reliability of a tank. For that is right, for all the other stuff, i.e. mobility, QNX is nothing like it. A mobile OS should be designed with mobility in mind, tell microsoft, they were taught the lesson the hard way…
    QNX is no death star of doom in any way… It is more like a big stone tight to the feet of a drawning company…

  • anonymous

    I agree with you in most of what you said. But think about it, if rimm develops on top of Android, which seems obvious from a certain point of view, what would be the control on the value offered?, What would be the difference with hardware manufacturers from asia such as those you mentioned? Honestly, the last movement for RIMM is finding a good buyer interested in mobility, with a lot of cash from their solid business lines and as clueless as they are, i.e. HP!!! You’ll see…

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been working with and writing about QNX since 1987 and it’s the best OS in terms of flexibility and stability by far. If RIM fails to see what they have and simply resells QNX I would love to buy it and show Apple a real competitor.