BlackBerry and Microsoft are a perfect example of how much the modern tech world has changed.
BlackBerry and Microsoft didn’t seem to have much to do with each other. In the simplest of terms, one made smart phones, and one made PC software, and there was no real reason for them to connect. And yet, they have, numerous times and in numerous ways. If you really wanted to get nitpicky, you could talk about BlackBerry software working on Windows PC’s and Microsoft email being delivered to BlackBerry phones, but that’s minutia. As these two companies businesses has changed in this connected world, BlackBerry and Microsoft have found themselves as competitors, and partners.
I suppose the first time that we could really look at BlackBerry and Microsoft as competitors would be when Microsoft entered the mobile phone space with Windows Phone. But I don’t really think this was ever seen as a fair competition, and by the point when it probably was, I doubt either company was too concerned about the other. When Microsoft first entered the smartphone space with Windows CE in 1996, BlackBerry was the king of the smartphone world, and Windows CE was dreadful. Microsoft did find success with Windows Mobile, and this may probably be first time we could see BlackBerry and Microsoft in competition, but with the advent of iOS and Android, both BlackBerry and Microsoft saw their fortunes fail.
BlackBerry brought out BB10, which I still think is the best and most capable mobile OS available, however by the time they did, Google and Apple owned the smartphone market. Likewise, Microsoft released Windows Phone, which in all honesty, I found to be a great OS. While not as good as BB10, it was still much more to my liking than either Android or iOS. Unfortunately, both operating systems suffered the same damaging blow, and that was apps, or lack of them. It seemed the app development world was against both BlackBerry and Microsoft, with neither platform attracting the big name apps of the time, and the consumer market was not buying. BlackBerry, who had been primarily a phone company, and offered services based around those phones, found themselves in financial trouble, and by all accounts, should have been out of business by now.
Luckily, those accounts are wrong, BlackBerry has completed a financial turnaround, and have pivoted their business to now stand as a software company with an incredibly bright future, while still finding a way to offer fans phones. Microsoft on the other hand, had no fear of having financial difficulty, and proceeded to pay app developers to bring their apps to the platform, which did see Microsoft find a slight lead in marketshare over BlackBerry, but again, at that point, it wasn’t about Microsoft or BlackBerry. It was all about beating Google and Apple. And that didn’t happen. BlackBerry, realizing they couldn’t beat them, joined them, and began producing Android phones, eventually getting out of the hardware manufacturing business altogether, while still providing the only secure version of Android to their new manufacturing partners. Microsoft on the other hand, got tired of the heat and got out of the kitchen, shuttering their Lumia line, however there is still the rumored Surface phone on the horizon, that is assumed by many to be the phone to bring Microsoft success in the mobile world.
While this all took place in the mobile phone space, other activities were playing out. Rumors abounded, not once, but several times, that Microsoft would buy out BlackBerry. Of course, that never occurred. At nearly the same time of these rumors, BlackBerry’s automotive software by QNX won the heart of Ford Motor Company. Unfortunately for Microsoft, they had been the previous supplier for Ford. The company that was rumored to buy the “dying” company, found themselves displaced by a company which was very much alive.
BlackBerry and Microsoft have found themselves working together in various capacities throughout the years as well. Back in 2012 the pair launched BlackBerry Business Cloud Services for Microsoft Office 365, which is entirely too long a name for a service. More recently BlackBerry and Microsoft held a security panel together. As the world has become more connected, there have been many aspects of their business which could tie together. But how about working together in a space where they were once in competition? It is happening now.
BlackBerry’s QNX is the dominating market leader when it comes to the automotive industry. QNX is currently in 60 million cars, and that number shall just continue to climb. From telematics to infotainment to safety systems, QNX is the underlying operating system ensuring these run as they should, safely and securely. While BlackBerry stopped seeing success from the smartphone hardware business, they have achieved great success in software, and in the automotive industry. Likewise, Microsoft has found their success did not lie in creating an automotive OS, but have seen great success in Azure, their cloud services. With the automotive industry self driving themselves in to a whole new realm, good is not good enough.
Autonomous cars, whether you like the idea or not, is going to happen. Cars shall be either driving us, or driving on the road next to us. The software behind this new tech needs to be flawless. People’s lives will be in it’s hands and it needs to be the best. And we can see how connected the connected world will be. BlackBerry has announced a strategic initiative to work with Microsoft’s Azure platform on the QNX car OS.
Think about this, the absolute leader in automotive software, BlackBerry, sees the positive in working with the already proven cloud platform of Microsoft. This is the epitome of the IoT world that we’re living in. With this partnering of QNX and Azure, BlackBerry can focus on keeping the QNX platform as safe, secure, and capable as possible. At the same time, Microsoft can provide it’s proven services to the lucrative automobile industry without trying to develop a software to displace QNX.
This type of strategy is a departure from the ways of the past, and we can see that the same strategy has played out in BlackBerry’s mobile phone business. Gone are the days of old when a company had to provide the hardware, software, and peripherals. Now, companies may focus on what they do best, and what they can be most profitable at, while allowing someone else to do what they do best, and can be most profitable at, to deliver the best product to the consumer. Originally the mobile phone world was a place where an OEM would design and manufacture a phone, develop the software for that phone, and then create the apps and accessories for that phone. As time progressed we saw third parties begin to produce accessories. We saw third parties develop apps. With the rise of Android, we watched as Google developed an operating system and manufacturers produced the hardware, apps and user interfaces for those phones. BlackBerry has recently taken it a step further by taking that OS from Google, and securing it in a way which even the creator of the OS was unable to do. BlackBerry found partners to design, manufacture, market and distribute BlackBerry phones to house their superior OS.
BlackBerry has long been a leader in the tech world. Now BlackBerry has proven that even when they were in their worst position, they were still able to innovatively lead to a new way of doing business, in a way which allows past competitors to shine. What does this mean to the consumer? We can be sure that with BlackBerry involved, we are getting BlackBerry’s full focus on safety and security. And for those areas that aren’t BlackBerry’s primary focus, we don’t need to fret that care wasn’t taken, as BlackBerry is partnering with experts in those areas to bring us the best possible product.