The lines of coding that form the BlackBerry QNX operating system could be Canada’s largest contribution to the automotive world. Since 1998, they’ve found their way into 175 million vehicles, primarily to govern the audio, navigation and similar dashboard functions known as infotainment.
Even as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto allowed drivers to override the vehicle systems with their smartphones, it was still QNX, as often as not, making the connections in the background.
But BlackBerry’s prominence in infotainment software is waning fast. Its share of the market has fallen to just 28 per cent from more than 50 per cent in 2015, according to industry tracker IHS Markit, and will take a further hit when automaker Ford moves to Google Android to directly power infotainment in millions of cars starting in 2023.
Ford, which announced the switch in February, joins General Motors, Volvo, Nissan and others in embracing Google, at least partly for access to revenue from a rich array of third-party apps that consumers can load as easily to their cars as to their phones.
Ford represents at least 20 per cent of BlackBerry’s remaining infotainment business, IHS Markit says.
For BlackBerry, the losses to Google and other Linux-based operating systems could bring to mind its earlier descent from leading handset maker and Canadian tech darling to near-collapse after Apple introduced the iPhone. The Waterloo, Ont.-based company was forced to reinvent itself as a security software and service provider, with many of its offerings built around the Ottawa QNX division it acquired in 2010.
‘WE SAW THIS COMING’