Research In Motion (RIMM), the Canadian firm behind BlackBerry, is set to release their tablet called the PlayBook on April 19th. There have been many questions whether RIM can stay relevant in this market given the other big players in this space and those about to enter it. For the consumer, there is Apple’s (AAPL) iPad, and the recently released iPad2. Cisco (CSCO) has already initiated corporate training to promote effortless integration of its soon-to-be-released Cius tablet with their back end systems. RIM faces tough competition from both sides.
Jim Balsillie, one of RIM’s co-chief executives, was quoted by the New York Times (on Sunday) as saying that they are fine being a small competitor. With this thought, I wrote a piece about how many companies exist and endure as minor or niche market players.
Then, yesterday morning, other co-chief Mike Lazaridis was interviewed by the BBC. When asked about security on BlackBerry, he said repeatedly that they have solved their security issues. I think they probably believe they have solved such OS breaches with the acquisition of QNX, and using one of the QNX operating systems on the RIM tablet. It is through this deal that RIM has some real opportunity.
The PlayBook tablet runs a proprietary Unix style OS built by QNX. QNX has designed operating systems that power automobiles, airplanes and Cisco IOX UR, the OS on Cisco's carrier-grade routers. QNX has a solid customer base, and just when they were about to release the source code to their OS, RIM purchased them from Harmon Kardon.
With this purchase, RIM gets to reinvent themselves as a major player, offering industrial system companies a widely-used device with an already integrated operating system. An RIM PlayBook may be your next on-board car GUI, or the interface System Admins use to access or turn off kernels as developers need.
RIM has a great opportunity in front of them. Now we get to wait to see if they take advantage of it.