BlackBerry has reportedly entered into its first agreement with a major automaker for its QNX operating system, tapping Ford Motor Co.
As Ford is increasingly focusing on developing automated vehicles, it agreed to work directly with BlackBerry to deploy the secure QNX OS into cars. The deal marks a major milestone for BlackBerry, which so far has been selling its technology to auto industry suppliers, but not directly to automakers.
Panasonic Automotive, for instance, is currently using BlackBerry's software in its Sync 3 infotainment system it delivers to Ford.
The direct agreement with Ford should now give BlackBerry a better chance to push its software in more Ford vehicles. At the same time, the deal gives BlackBerry a better fighting chance against Apple, which is reportedly focusing on developing car software as well after snatching former BlackBerry QNX CEO.
BlackBerry already lost to Apple on the smartphone market, but it has a good chance to stay ahead in the race on the auto scene, especially with the Apple Car no longer happening.
QNX already gives BlackBerry a good head start and the Ford partnership gives it an important edge.
"We can form the basis of the entire vehicle all the way from autonomous drive through to infotainment," BlackBerry QNX unit chief, John Wall, told Reuters.
The deal will not only benefit BlackBerry, however. Ford has ambitious plans to deploy fully autonomous cars for commercial ride-sharing by 2021, and QNX is certified for use in self-driving and active safety systems.
"In the initial engagements you can think of an expansion into the cockpit; telematics, infotainment, cluster," Wall further explained.
"The future of the automobile is all about embedded intelligence. I believe our expertise in secure embedded software makes us the preferred technology provider to put the smart in the car," added BlackBerry CEO John Chen.
Neither Ford nor BlackBerry offered any details regarding the financial terms of the agreement, or how QNX will make its way into new systems.
Nevertheless, eliminating the middleman and becoming a Tier One supplier for Ford paves the way for BlackBerry to become a more important player on the auto scene.
With Ford now on board to work directly with BlackBerry, other automakers may also join the party soon and expand BlackBerry's reach even further. QNX can already be found in tens of millions of vehicles, but cutting the middleman out of the equation should significantly increase its hold.
It remains to be seen how things will pan out for BlackBerry and its car software, but its Tier One deal with Ford is definitely an important step in the right direction. The race is on, and Apple might want to hurry with its own software to "revolutionize the car experience."