Blackberry’s Smart Pivot to M2M

The machine to machine (M2M) market is growing rapidly – as sensors become cheaper to embed in our clothes, appliances, shipping containers and just about everything else. In fact, one estimate pegs the market as worth $88 billion in nine years from now. Hundreds of billions of sensors will soon be sold, presenting an opportunity like few others. More importantly, there is no market leader in the space big enough to block out everyone else.

QNX, now part of Blackberry tackled the enterprise desktop market in the 1990s – before Linux started to become popular. The company’s PC OS competed at the time with Novell, DOS, Windows and UNIX variants such as Interactive and SCO. What was interesting to me during those years was the ability of QNX to share cycles from microprocessors on a corporate network allowing an application on one machine to run on another as well. At the time, there were not enough applications able to take advantage of such an advance and as a result, QNX was forced to focus more on embedded systems.

Blackberry CEO John Chen when doing a strategic review of the company must have realized that M2M was hot and QNX has a strong base of embedded solutions. He determined this area is ripe with opportunity and growth and best of all Apple isn’t a player yet.

Chen knows the handset market is not going to be giving his company any new gifts in the short term so when figuring out how to turn the company around, he has to look to where the opportunity is.

Alec Saunders who used to head up the company’s developer program, will run this new division named Cloud and he will be its Vice President. You may remember he was founder of communications company Iotum and also was the VP of Marketing at QNX at the beginning of the last decade.


In a way, QNX faces a challenge Intel dealt with in the nineties when it realized consumers didn’t know it made the processors in the computers they purchased. This was the start of a massive multi-decade marketing campaign we still witness on our TV screens and in our magazines. While not quite as glamorous, the company has established a page on its site detailing the many ways QNX touches your life – by powering green energy solutions, your power-plants, planes, trains and automobiles – no kidding.

In fact, that would be a good marketing campaign for the company – Powering your planes, trains & automobiles and soon, just about everything. Regardless of how they decide to promote this new division, it makes sense to take your strengths and refocus them on markets that are ripe with growth. This is a smart pivot by Blackberry and we’ll see how they execute going forward.

To learn more, here are some good resources to peruse:

  • QNX reference designs and demos show the company’s various solutions such as automotive, industrial and medical
  • Rachel Ramsey, the Content Director M2M Evolution details Blackberry’s move to IoT
  • John Chen explains why this move will be a success
  • Steve Anderson a TMCnet contributor gives his thoughts on Blackberry in the M2M space
  • This article and another talk about QNX in the speech recognition markets

To learn more about M2M be sure to attend the preeminent conference in the space – M2M Evolution next week in Miami.

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