Since BlackBerry acquired QNX Neutrino in April 2010, the questions naturally veered to “when will we see a QNX BlackBerry smartphone?” In September last year, Research In Motion announced the PlayBook tablet running QNX, which was released in April of this year. Rumors are now leaking out that the first QNX smartphone, the BlackBerry Colt, is scheduled for early 2012.
RIM has struggled with QNX. The company bought it because of its flexibility (running the computers of vehicles and planes) and its security. Yet, RIM has had problems shrinking the operating system into the tablet form factor and even more into smartphones. The PlayBook launched without native calendar, email or contacts support because of problems integrating QNX with the BlackBerry Enterprise Server. Will RIM have those issues fixed by the time the Colt comes out next year?
Two years seems like a long time to iterate an operating system for a company that specializes in mobile development. Granted, developments do not happen overnight. Google bought Android in 2005 and it wasn’t until 2009 that the platform really took off. Yet, the intervening time between rolling out QNX RIM acquired QNX and implementing it into smartphones has been murder on the company. It has laid off workers, its financials are a mess and the executive team has been sniping at each other in public.
If the Colt is released without BES support, it will be purely a consumer play for RIM. Even with promises of great security baked within QNX, enterprises will not flock to it without native email and calendar that can be synced through BES. That may be part of the reason that RIM released new BlackBerry smartphones last week, knowing that the IT cycles will be sated with new devices. For consumers waiting for the next cool BlackBerry though, the BlackBerry 7 phones are not worth the price if RIM is just going to make a break and jump to QNX next year anyway.
Regardless of what consumers think of BlackBerry 7 or QNX devices, RIM needs to make QNX work with BES. Soon. BlackBerry is losing the consumer race to Android and Apple and a lot of mobile pundits think that RIM will go back from whence it came – niche devices for the enterprise.