BlackBerry parent RIM bought QNX Software Systems, a maker of embedded real-time operating systems, this past April. Back then, the purchase was relatively low-key, and it seemed that integration between BlackBerrys and high-end automobile computers would be the most interesting upshot.
But with a report from Bloomberg that RIM's rumored BlackPad tablet will run a version of the QNX operating system rather than BlackBerry OS, the acquisition looks to have been the first step in a strategic change in direction for the company.
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Why would RIM shoulder the burden of supporting two separate operating systems, when the company already has a mobile OS? An intriguing bit of speculation comes from one of Bloomberg's unnamed sources, who says it "may have been simpler and faster to use QNX because the BlackBerry 6 OS includes legacy software code from older BlackBerry phones."
That legacy cruft may be a big part of what's holding back the operating system for RIM's smartphones; instead of being a separate product, the QNX-based BlackPad OS may turn out to be the first iteration of an operating system that will find itself on future BlackBerrys as well.
QNX is a Unix-like OS with a Posix programming interface available to programmers; this may make it more attractive to developers than BlackBerry OS, whose apps are primarily built with the Java ME platform that is losing favor. QNX also has a great reputation for stability and security -- after all, it serves as the OS for systems running cardiac monitors, tanks, and nuclear power plants.