RIM PlayBook QNX OS Headed to BlackBerry Smartphones: Report

RIM's BlackBerry smartphones will eventually run a version of the open-source QNX operating system that will debut on the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, a RIM executive reportedly confirmed.

A version of the QNX operating system, which will debut on Research In Motion's BlackBerry PlayBook tablet PC, will eventually also run on RIM's BlackBerry smartphones, a company executive reportedly said.

IntoMobile.com reported Sept. 28 that an unnamed RIM vice president, during a breakfast event at the BlackBerry Developer Conference in San Francisco, confirmed that QNX, over time, will find its way onto BlackBerry smartphones and eventually replace the current BlackBerry OS. However, the move could take some time, and BlackBerry 7 likely will be used as a transitional OS of sorts until a full switch to QNX is made, the RIM executive said, according to the Website.

RIM introduced the PlayBook at its DevCon conference Sept. 27, offering limited details about the long-rumored device, which will go on sale during the first half of 2011. While RIM has geared the tablet toward its long-time core audience of enterprise users, the natural comparison is to Apple's iPad, which proved instantly popular with consumers.

Despite posting strong revenues, RIM has in recent quarters been losing U.S. consumer market share to Apple's iPhone and smartphones running Google's open-source Android operating system. With the PlayBook and its new QNX OS, the market will be watching to see if RIM has created the winning device it has been in need of to protect its brand image and hold on to subscribers.

While RIM is hardly alone in having a tablet in the works-Hewlett-Packard is working on both Windows- and webOS-running tablets, and Samsung and Dell each plan to release 7-inch, Android-based tablets in time for the holidays-its approach to its OS is rather unique.

"Android tablets ... appear to be going down the same path as the iPad, using an OS originally designed for Android smartphones," Ken Hyers, an analyst with Technology Business Research, told eWEEK. "Though the Android OS is arguably more sophisticated than the iPhone OS, using a smartphone OS to run a tablet seems to be a case of failing to take advantage of all of the capabilities inherent in a tablet form factor. The Playbook's QNX OS has been developed from the ground up for the tablet computer. Hence it is able to support greater technical capabilities, such as a more powerful processor and more memory, and hopefully better graphics capabilities than the iPad."

Transitioning the tablet-based OS to BlackBerry smartphones creates a promising scenario for RIM, said Hyers.

"Rather than seeing a less-capable device (the smartphone) donating its OS to a more-capable device (the tablet), the more-capable device will lead the way," he said. "When the BlackBerry gets the QNX OS, the OS will have been extensively field tested on the tablet, meaning that smartphone customers will not have to put up with buggy software that hasn't been properly tested."

The open-source QNX is also far more likely to attract application developers than the BlackBerry OS-even the new BlackBerry 6 OS that RIM launched Aug. 12 on the BlackBerry Torch.

IDC analyst Al Hilwa, in a Sept. 28 research note, described RIM as implementing "aggressive changes in its strategy" with the introduction of PlayBook. Hilwa added that PlayBook points to RIM "finally understanding the value of open source and analytics to developers" and wrote that tablet's DevCon introduction may go down as "the day RIM began to get its mojo back."