Next Up – The Internet of Things

by alec on January 26, 2014

Always remember that the future comes one day at a time.  Dean Acheson, American Statesman.

Last Thursday, news broke that I had accepted a new role as the Vice President of QNX Cloud, a new business at QNX (a BlackBerry subsidiary).  As an industry we’re closing in on connecting every phone on the planet — maybe 5 billion in total.  What’s next?  Connecting up all the machines.   QNX Cloud is a business focused on building enabling cloud based technologies for Machine to Machine and Internet of Things businesses.  QNX Cloud is infrastructure that enables a wide range of connected devices (ranging from automobiles to power plants, consumer electronics, and more) to be managed, updated, and remotely monitored.  Our goal is to facilitate so-called “big data” analysis of data coming from these connected devices, and to provide programming interfaces that allow the creation of sophisticated new applications that deliver real business benefit to our customers.

John Chen, writing on Inside BlackBerry, described this move as a “return to his roots”, but I prefer to think of it as a continuation of a path that I have been walking on for most of the past 20 years of my career.  A future that, for twenty years, has been coming “one day at a time”.  QNX Cloud is a developer product, first and foremost.  It’s targeted at networked and embedded devices. To be successful, we’ll need to build an ecosystem, channels to market, and recruit strategic partners.  And because it’s a new initiative, it has many characteristics of a start up.

Wish us luck.


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Living with Playbook, two months later

by alec on June 15, 2011

When RIM launched the BlackBerry Playbook in mid-April, I grabbed one and started using it.  You might have noticed that I didn’t write about it the time.  The same as other writers, my initial take on the Playbook was that it had a lot of promise but wasn’t ready for prime-time.  Some websites didn’t work, there weren’t many apps, and the device itself was a little buggy. I wanted to like it though, and set about figuring out whether I could put my iPad aside, and use the Playbook instead.

Two months, and three software updates later, Playbook has dramatically improved.

  1. Battery life, which was typically less than a day when Playbook first launched, is now much improved.
  2. Applications are coming at a steady pace, and several key applications that I depend on my iPad, are now available.
  3. The biggest breakthrough was a native Dropbox client named Bluebox.   Now I can access all of my files from Playbook.
  4. All of the major newspapers I read on iPad, now have equivalent editions on Playbook.   Interestingly, they’ve all chosen to omit the social sharing buttons that are present on iPad.  That throws a wrench into my early morning routine – reading the paper on my tablet, and tweeting interesting stories.  No equivalent yet exists for FlipBoard on the iPad, but several capable news aggregators (like News360) and RSS readers are available.
  5. One of the biggest criticisms of Playbook, when it launched, was the lack of a native email client.  If you didn’t have a Blackberry to use their Blackberry Bridge application with, then you were out of luck.  The same is still true.  However, for Blackberry users, the Bridge application provides capable access to email, contacts, calendar, and messenger.  The email and contacts experience is very similar to that on iPad, and using Blackberry Messenger on Playbook is light years better than the native experience on a Blackberry device.

The QNX operating system, which is the foundation of Playbook, will also becoming to the Blackberry handset.   It will be a profound shift, and it can’t happen soon enough.  Playbook is already a better device than the BlackBerry that is its companion, and it’s only going to get better.

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RIM: Re-imagining “Phone” again

May 30, 2011
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The knives are out for RIM’s top management, but the financial press is missing the boat as they focus on short-term results. In 2002, the company remade the fledgling smartphone industry by releasing the first devices – Blackberry 5800 series – with integrated enterprise class email.  The arms race was on, as Microsoft and Palm […]

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Is RIM doomed to repeat history?

February 11, 2011

I invite you to cast your memories back to 1992.  No, not the election of Bill Clinton, but the IBM launch of OS/2 2.0. OS/2 2.0, IBM’s multi-tasking OS with the ability to run Windows applications in virtual machines was widely touted as “a better Windows than Windows”.  And indeed, compared to Windows 3.1, it […]

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Don’t be afraid to kill old business lines.

December 13, 2010
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Successfully transitioning from a current product to a next generation, without damaging the business today, is one of the toughest balancing acts in business.  That’s the challenge that the darling of the Canadian mobile market, RIM, faces today. Friday afternoon a customer casually asked me what I thought of RIM Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis’ session at […]

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RIM’s secret weapon.

September 9, 2010

The US analyst community has been holding a wake for RIM in the last few days.  Henry Blodget has been beating the drum for some time, and now he’s been joined by Colin Gillis of BCG, Adnaan Ahmad of Berenberg, and Pierre Ferragu of Bernstein.  It’s a pile-on that has driven the stock price down […]

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RIM bought QNX because of Apple.

April 9, 2010

News is out this morning that Harman International has agreed to sell its QNX Software Systems division to Research In Motion.  TechCrunch reports that this might mean tighter integration with automobiles, since Harman acquired QNX in order to provide software to its automotive customer base.  RIM Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis himself hypes up the automotive possibilities […]

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QNX CAR showcased at Adobe MAX

October 5, 2009

Adobe’s on a roll, putting flash into all kinds of devices.  Expect lots of announcements this week as the Adobe MAX Conference gets underway.  For example, over the weekend, news reports said that Adobe would extend flash to just about every phone in the market – except iPhone.  The message is that with Flash 10.1, […]

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QNX at Mobile World Congress

February 14, 2008

Getting into mobile devices was a favorite theme of QNX founder Dan Dodge during the time I was at the company, 5 years ago. But back then it was an aspiration as opposed to having a solid offering for mobile device manufacturers.  So, I dropped by the QNX display (part of the FreeScale Exhibit) yesterday […]

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Singularity vs Neutrino

November 21, 2005

I had lunch (Thai, if it matters) today with my friend Linda Campbell, who runs the strategic alliances group at QNX Software Systems.  Over the lunch, I asked if she had heard about the Microsoft Research Group’s experimental OS called Singularity.  Like QNX Neutrino, Singularity is also a micro-kernal based system.   We speculated that perhaps […]

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