RIM's transition to QNX hinges on software development, not hardware

BARCELONA, Spain--Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) is not being held back in its transition from the BlackBerry platform to using QNX software for its smartphones by hardware issues, but is instead waiting on software development innovation, according to a senior RIM executive.  

RIM executives have said numerous times that the BlackBerry maker will transition to using QNX in its smartphones when it releases dual-core smartphones. In an interview with FierceWireless, Jeff McDowell, RIM's senior vice president of enterprise and platform marketing, did not give out any more details on when that transition might come, but said it was not based on hardware limitations. Indeed, several handset makers have already announced dual-core smartphones, including LG with its Optimus 2X and Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI) with its Atrix 4G and Droid Bionic gadgets. 

"I think it's really just a software maturity thing," he said. "We started with PlayBook. We've put all our work behind creating an amazing tablet OS, which we think we've done a pretty good job of." He said the tablet does not perform the many functions of a smartpone, including making calls and that "there's a ton of stuff that still needs to be done from an engineering perspective on the software side to take what we did with the tablet OS and then move it to a smartphone." 

McDowell said RIM is not going to rush the transition. "We're fully intending to come up with a smartphone platform that leapfrogs everything that's out there in its functionality. And that just takes a development cycle to get to," he said, adding later, "We'll get there and we won't be late. It'll be expected timing, so to speak."

RIM is actively courting multiple developer communities beyond its BlackBerry developer ecosystem to make applications for the PlayBook. In December, RIM released v0.9.1 of its BlackBerry Tablet OS software development kit beta for Adobe AIR. Then in January RIM released its BlackBerry WebWorks SDK, supplying web and mobile web developers a framework, APIs and tooling to build applications optimized for the PlayBook. RIM also enables users to write apps for the PlayBook in native code. McDowell said this opens PlayBook development up to 2 million Adobe developers worldwide and 5 million to 6 million web developers.

RIM's aim, McDowell said, was to give BlackBerry developers the ability to run their apps on the PlayBook and to give other developers a choice of how they want to build applications. "If you want to do something with Flash and really pretty, you use Adobe," he said. "If you want to do something deep and highly functional, you use native. If you want to do something more functional, but you want to get out a proof of concept really quickly, you use WebWorks."

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