Things just got really interesting. A few days ago, we reported that Apple is working on self-driving software with the help of a few dozen ex-Blackberry QNX software engineers. The former QNX self-driving systems’ creator and boss, Dan Dodge, is now in charge of the team at Apple. Blackberry did some “fact-finding” and updated Bloomberg’s post to make it known that, despite the poaching and the new developments at Apple, their team is still moving forward.
The crazy part is that this is one of the first rumors involving Apple and another company (or former employees, etc.) that has been officially substantiated by the company in question. Of course, no one from Apple cared to comment, but Blackberry was willing to admit that its self-driving employees and team leader are, in fact, now working on the technology at Apple. However, Blackberry wanted to clear the air that it is still well underway with its systems, regardless of the loss of talent. Although, it’s hard to imagine that the company hasn’t faced any setbacks, due to Apple’s poaching.
Nevertheless, “well underway” was obviously a huge understatement, since mere hours after that update, Blackberry secured an official deal to work with Ford on self-driving systems. This isn’t Blackberry’s first venture with Ford. The QNX operating system already powers Ford’s latest SYNC3 infotainment system, as well as a majority of other automakers’ systems. As of 2015, Blackberry QNX software was in 50 million vehicles, made by over 40 OEMs. This is a substantial milestone, not met by any other company. Similarly, while Apple CarPlay is fairly new to the market, it is seeing marked support.
Blackberry had to pivot its focus away from mobile devices after Apple stole the market years back. There was a time when Blackberry was at the top, prior to the iPhone and touchscreen technology. Now, it is beginning to look like history may repeat itself. It’s almost as if Apple has found Blackberry to be a great company to snuff out. Online investment blog Seeking Alpha wrote:
“Sure, while it’s possible Apple could pay BlackBerry for a QNX source code license and hire Dan Dodge to wed it to some new Apple hardware for automotive, it’s far more likely Apple will create a whole new automotive OS whereby cutting BlackBerry off at the knees. (emphasis added.)”
“BlackBerry announced that it will dedicate a team of engineers to work on the Ford project. The team will work to expand the reach of QNX as well as BlackBerry’s Certicom security technology.”
“Ford wants to have a fully autonomous ride-sharing fleet on the road by 2021 and have a consumer product ready by 2025. Partnering with BlackBerry seems to be a smart move for both companies, as it sets up BlackBerry to be a frontrunner in autonomous tech.”
The fact that the QNX system is so successful for Blackberry, and compelling Ford to choose to partner up on the next level, is significant. And now, the creator of the system, and his top team members, are over at Apple developing a competing system. That’s pretty big news. Who’s to say that Apple can’t just go all in and purchase Blackberry and the QNX system, just in time for these lucrative partnerships? While Ford, and likely a myriad of other companies, are willing to strike a deal with Blackberry on self-driving technology, they may not be as eager to partner up with Apple (as we have seen thus far). But if Apple either comes forward at the right time with a better “Apple QNX” type system, or Apple goes all in and acquires Blackberry QNX, it could get very interesting to say the least.