BlackBerry COO on the company’s dive into the automotive industry

TORONTO – You might not know it, but chances are there is some sort of BlackBerry software in your vehicle.

Beard, who held executive positions at Oracle Corp., SAP division Sybase, and cloud call centre firm LiveOps Inc. before joining BlackBerry, sat down with CDN to outline the company’s shift to software and the enterprise. BlackBerry’s focus now lies in security, software, and automotive operating systems, rather than hardware.

In part two of our Q/A with Beard, he discusses BlackBerry’s dive into the automotive industry and the success the company has had with QNX.

This is part two in a three-part interview.

Part 1: BlackBerry COO on the company’s new direction with its hardware

The following is an edited transcript. 

CDN Now: We were shocked that you said that BlackBerry is inside 250 auto makers. With the Ford announcement in December, we were under the impression that BlackBerry had just entered this space. How long has BlackBerry been preparing this push and working with auto makers?

Marty Beard: Years. Approximately 50 per cent of the market for Infotainment is BlackBerry. There are a lot of systems in a car, and they are all independently out there. For example, here’s BlackBerry managing really well the infotainment, and we’re also really good with acoustics. So most people don’t realize that if you have a high end sedan, all the sounds are managed. They’re fabricated, but you don’t know that when you’re driving.

BlackBerry COO Marty Beard

As we get into autonomous and semi-autonomous you get into much more analytics about what is happening. The sensors on the outside and inside of the car and what is going on around this environment. Those need to be managed. Then when you step back, those systems need to talk to each other. So we’re in an awesome space, because we’re really good at it. It is a really stable, very well vetted software. It’s in rockets, it’s in airplanes, and the industry knows that.

It’s a big opportunity, but it takes time. The Ford deal we announced, that takes a lot of time to get there.

CDN Now: How have you forged these partnerships?

Beard: We’re known in the industry and we’ve already done some work with Ford previously. This expanded that quite dramatically. The good news about that industry is that it’s not huge in the sense of the number of players, so you know where to go. We’re in a good position there.

CDN Now: Do you plan on growing beyond the infotainment, acoustics, etc. Would we ever see something like the Google Car from BlackBerry?

Beard: Yes, we plan on growing our software, but no, don’t mistake that for us moving beyond the software space. We have what we think is going to hit the roads, and I think we’re very well positioned.

CDN Now: What made BlackBerry want to enter the automotive industry in the first place?

Beard: Through the acquisition of QNX. QNX was already there, and they did a beautiful job of growing and becoming bigger, but it was kind of off to the side a little bit. Now you’re hearing that it’s not off to the side and it’s becoming a major part of the story of what we do. QNX is now BlackBerry QNX.

Plus, a lot of us are Silicon Valley folks and you can’t go left or right without someone talking about smart cars, and then you see the Google Car go by, so it’s the next platform. Forget PCs and mobile, it’s all about the car. It’s such a huge topic and there is so much money going into it, that obviously for us we are already in there, so let’s get a larger presence.

CDN Now: How do you win in this marketplace against these giants like Microsoft? What makes BlackBerry special?

Beard: With Ford, that was a win over Microsoft. It’s the solution. I don’t want to trivialize it, but it’s a great solution in terms of the actual software, but it’s also about security. Everybody saw the dramatic moment where that car was driven off the road, and it was all over YouTube, and it got a lot of attention because it was a very dramatic showing. This stuff has got to be secure.

There is great brand strength that we have around security, plus the actual technology. That’s the main reason.

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Alex Radu
Alex Radu
is a staff writer for Computer Dealer News. When not writing about the tech industry, you can find him reading, watching TV/movies, or watching the Lakers rebuild with one eye open.

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