BlackBerry Boys Are Back

The company, once synonymous with premium mobile handsets, has shifted focus to IoT and enterprise security, while distancing itself from the smartphone industry
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Steeped in luxury, BlackBerry was once a household name in the smartphone industry, known for its iconic physical keyboard and BBM , the secure messaging service. The company’s last developed phone was the Blackberry Key2LE that came in 2018. And despite signing a new licensing agreement for smartphones with US-based startup OnwardMobility in August 2020, the Canadian tech giant did not release any new phones.

Sadly, in January 2022, the company announced its departure from the handset software market, leaving users of the older BlackBerry models unable to reliably send texts, make phone calls, or access data.

But that doesn’t mean the company is out of the game. BlackBerry boys, are back.

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Today, BlackBerry has shifted its focus to the Internet of Things (IoT) and enterprise security software, while completely distancing itself from the smartphone industry. In fact, the company recently sold most of its smartphone-related patents for $900 million to Malikie Innovations Ltd.

In 2019, the company had acquired cybersecurity firm Cylance for $1.4 billion. The purchase added AI and machine learning capabilities to BlackBerry’s portfolio and solidified its position in the cybersecurity market. In the IoT business, the company had already acquired QNX back in 2010 , which basically focuses on the automotive industry.

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Recently BlackBerry announced the opening of a new Center of Excellence, Engineering and Innovation Center in Hyderabad. This new facility will be BlackBerry’s second-largest world-class engineering centre outside of Canada and will host around 100 embedded software developers by the end of 2023.

The Flagship: BlackBerry’s IoT

BlackBerry’s IoT business unit consists of BlackBerry QNX, BlackBerry Certicom, BlackBerry Radar, BlackBerry Jarvis, and BlackBerry IVY. However, the most focused units are BlackBerry IVY and BlackBerry QNX.

BlackBerry IVY is a cloud-connected software that allows car manufacturers to safely access a vehicle’s sensor data and use machine learning to create insights. IVY has a simple, safety-compliant API mechanism, which allows developers to build applications that enhance the driving experience. Meanwhile, BlackBerry QNX is a supplier of operating systems, development tools, and support for critical embedded systems. QNX is used in various industries, including aerospace, defence, medical, and robotics, to launch safe, secure, and reliable systems more efficiently.

The company claims that its IoT business’ customers include 17 of the G20 governments, 45 of the Fortune 100, and 77% of Fortune 500 financial services companies. Additionally, 45+ OEMs, including Audi, BMW, Ford, GM, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo, have embedded BlackBerry’s technology in their vehicles. In India, Mahindra and TATA are said to be using Blackberry’s tech in their products.

While QNX was a well-known brand in the auto industry even before Blackberry acquired it in 2010, it still has competitors like Lynx and Green Hills softwares. On how Blackberry distinguishes itself from other competitors, John Wall – SVP (head of operations), Blackberry QNX, explained that there are two segments of competition for them: the traditional RTOS, such as Green Hills Software and VxWorks, and then there is Lynx. “The traditional RTOS comes from small processors that do not scale well on new-generation hardware,” says Wall. He stated that these systems lack performance despite having safety and security features.

“In contrast, Lynx comes from the high-performance side but lacks functional safety credentials,” commented Wall. “QNX, on the other hand, came from a mixture of functional safety, high security, and high-performance side.” Thus, QNX has the advantage of being a high-performance computing platform like Lynx but with the pedigree and safety requirements of traditional RTOSes, says Wall.

Problems ahead for Blackberry

While Blackberry may be doing well in its IoT business, the company might face difficulties in its enterprise security software business. Recently, Microsoft launched Security Copilot, an AI-powered security product that uses a combination of large language models and security-specific models to enhance the work of security analysts. The model will integrate with Microsoft Security products and will expand to third-party products.

The news is worrying for Blackberry as Cylance was known for its AI capability that it brought to the table. However, with the launch of Microsoft’s possibly GPT4-powered platform for Cybersecurity, Cylance would find it tough to bring a differentiator.

Cybersecurity rakes in major moolah for Blackberry, and since the company doesn’t have much of a differentiator in the field, it will have a hard time finding a piece of the pie in the cybersecurity solutions market, which is expected to grow to $366 billion by 2028.

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Lokesh Choudhary
Tech-savvy storyteller with a knack for uncovering AI's hidden gems and dodging its potential pitfalls. 'Navigating the world of tech', one story at a time. You can reach me at:

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