BlackBerry’s path from smartphone roadkill to smart car pioneer – with a short detour into the meme share

The obituary for BlackBerry as a smartphone pioneer has been written countless times. But with the business shifting away from devices and into the software that powers them, reports of the company’s death are proving premature.

BlackBerry’s QNX software, which tracks real-time data for features like Google Maps, GPS navigation, traffic monitoring and infotainment systems, is already integrated into millions of cars on the streets today.

And the company recently teamed up with Amazon to develop BlackBerry Ivy, a new cloud-based platform that takes self-driving technology a step further, collecting real-time data and making on-the-fly recommendations for everything from dangerous Things make road conditions the location of the next electric charging or gas station.

“You can look at things like traffic jams or offer your customers new services, such as recommending free parking spaces, based on your location,” explains Sarah Tatsis, who runs the program at BlackBerry, describing it.

Hoping for an automotive future

The company has high hopes for the technology but admitted in a press release last week that it isn’t perfect. As a setback to its excellent reputation for security, BlackBerry announced that it had found a potential vulnerability in versions of QNX released before 2012.

Although the versions have not been affected since then and the company said it was “not aware of any exploitation of this vulnerability”, this underscores the importance of BlackBerry believes the automotive industry is going to be of great importance to the future.

While only a few drivers probably know, QNX is already installed in 195 million vehicles on the road today. That’s nearly 100 times the number of vehicles Tesla has in the market, which provides similar data points to learn from and gives Canada’s fallen tech giants a head start in autonomous driving.

CLOCK | How BlackBerry was beaten in the smartphone industry it created:

The demise of the BlackBerry smartphone

While the company’s technology was world class, BlackBerry ultimately fell short in the smartphone space that it invented. 1:06

“It’s a big advantage for BlackBerry to be in nearly 200 million smart vehicles by now,” said independent technology journalist Pascal Forget in an interview with CBC News.

“They have a lot more data points, a lot more data that they can use to improve their systems compared to Tesla.”

Forget says he doubts having just one component under the hood of every smart on the road is enough to bring the company back to its heyday, but he says it could at least mean a new life.

Do you remember this? Early BlackBerry devices, then made by a tiny Canadian company called Research In Motion, were among the first internet-connected smartphones ever made. (Blackberry)

bumpy way back

CEO John Chen has led BlackBerry for eight years now, and from day one his mission has been to do exactly what they do now: away from the losing battle of the cell phones and toward the software that powers the devices of tomorrow.

That path has been a painful one, with several rounds of large layoffs hit hard at the Kitchener and Waterloo, Ontario technology center.

“It was definitely a challenging time and there was a lot of local concern,” said Mike Kirkup, the company’s former developer relations director.

CLOCK | How BlackBerry Created the Next Generation of Canadian Tech Stars:

How BlackBerry built Canada’s technology sector

The booming technology sector of Kitchener and Waterloo is full of ex-BlackBerry employees who have started their own businesses. 1:45

As BlackBerry lost employees, Kirkup said there was a concerted effort to keep many of the company’s talent in the region. Because while it was dying in smartphones, the company gave birth to the next generation of soaring tech stars.

Many former BlackBerry folks started their own startups while others helped take existing tech companies to the next level.

The data surveillance company Magnet Forensics, for example, consists largely of ex-BlackBerry executives, including CEO Adam Belsher and CEO Jim Balsillie, who co-founded BlackBerry with Mike Lazaridis in the early 1990s when it was still known as Research in Motion.

Magnet Forensics, which helps law enforcement agencies fight cybercrime, went public on the Toronto Stock Exchange in May, raising $ 115 million. Just three months later, the value of these stocks has tripled.

“I think this is the understated or under-represented story of the impact of what all these BlackBerry employees are doing now: They are scaling the next generation of businesses with levels of experience and global knowledge that very few people would have had before.” said Kirkup.

Mike Kirkup, the company’s former developer relations director, says former BlackBerry employees in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario have created the next generation of technology startups. (Philippe De Montigny / CBC)

Meme stock treatment

Though the name no longer has the stamp of approval it once had, BlackBerry’s fondness for world-leading technology was one factor in keeping the company’s shares on track earlier this year.

The share price hit a nine-year high in January after news of the smart car deal with Amazon landed, but much of the hype came from BlackBerry’s sudden status as a “meme stock” – a confusing company that often piles up private investors Analysts who have a deeper understanding of the company’s financial prospects.

Robert Tétrault, portfolio manager at Canaccord Genuity in Winnipeg, says BlackBerry owes its existence to the “GameStop phenomenon,” which involves coordinating online investor forums to help drive trade and add value to certain stocks.

“It was about sticking it to the institutions, sticking it to Wall Street. And pumping up a stock that they believed could grow.”

While that rally largely fizzled out, BlackBerry’s short tenure as a meme stock speaks for how investors think the company has some valuable tech under its hood.

Regardless of this hype, converting high-tech driving software into actual profit will be the point for the company.

“Redditors are focused on the next big thing and profits are less important. But at the end of the day, a stock will reflect its potential future profits regardless of what happens online,” said Tétrault.

About Veronica Richards

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