How Blackberry is Tiptoeing into Automotive Business

After consistently failing to make any major impact on the smartphone market, the tech giant is slowly shifting its focus on the software business. The company plans to target niche software segments such as automotive OS and security software, rather than hardware. Perhaps, diving into the autonomous vehicle market can bring BlackBerry some of its lost glory. With the passing time, companies such as Apple, Samsung and Google have gained a stronger foothold in the consumer electronics market, leaving very little space for the waterloo-based company to make any significant move in the particular vertical.

BlackBerry’s dying smartphone business can be considered as the catalyst that triggered this strategic move. Last year, the company succeeded in persuading Ford into a partnership, marking its first major automotive deal. Both the companies are reportedly planning to combine their resources to augment the carmaker’s QNX OS application. Undoubtedly, Ford’s growing interest in autonomous car making has prompted the company to collaborate with various technology firms for developing software solutions for self-driving cars. Over the past couple of years, the auto giant has scaled-up efforts in driverless vehicle segment and even announced to launch a fully automated vehicle by 2021.

BlackBerry, on the other hand, was selling its technology only to third-party auto component suppliers prior to the agreement with Ford. The company is certainly betting high on its exclusive security software offerings for automakers and other electronic manufacturers. It is most unlikely for BlackBerry to make any massive comeback in the smartphone market as other contenders continue to make its path tougher. However, the market is at a nascent stage for autonomous software and BlackBerry aims to capitalise on this opportunity.  To further consolidate its position in the particular space, the company recently expanded its QNX subsidiary to Ottawa, purely dedicated to research and development of autonomous vehicle software solution. Certainly, BlackBerry’s new business unit has the potentials to provide the needed impetus for the firm to increase its in-vehicle presence to a substantial level. As the auto industry scrambles for more advanced autonomous features, it can be a good time for BlackBerry QNX to expand its product line and have a more direct market approach.

The company has boasted about its latest QNX solution that is able to handle complex software operations including artificial intelligence and neural networks. At present, BlackBerry may not face any direct rivalry in the market, however, technology companies such as Google, and Tesla Motor are soon expected to arrive with similar services.  In the autonomous vehicle space, BlackBerry’s primary offerings comprise of solutions to automate cameras, sensors and other vehicular components. After taking Ford into confidence, the company is seeking for similar partnerships with other automakers in order to strengthen its autonomous vehicle components business. Meanwhile, Intel appears to be Blackberry’s nearest market contender as the California-based Technology Company is also extending its capabilities in the autonomous space. Intel has agreed to work with Mobileye and BMW to develop a self-driving technology, which is expected to arrive in market by 2021. The road for Blackberry will surely get more rutted, as it is only a matter of time before other companies realise the lucrativeness of the technology segment.

By Nikhil Kaitwade

With over 8 years of experience in market research and consulting industry, Nikhil has worked on more than 250 research assignments pertaining to chemicals, materials and energy sector. He has worked directly with about 35 reputed companies as lead consultant for plant expansion, product positioning, capacity factor analysis, new market/segment exploration, export market opportunity evaluation and sourcing strategies.

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