Research In Motion is buying QNX Software, with the intention of pushing the embedded OS into cars and using it for a new generation of "intelligent peripherals".
RIM already has an OS for its mobile phones, but QNX has some architectural advantages as well as a foothold in the in-car entertainment business, which RIM would like to play in. So, regulatory approval permitting, RIM will become the owner of QNX in the next 45 days.
Our best experience of QNX was its single-disk demonstration: a 1.4MB image packing a multitasking OS, web browser, notepad and graphics demonstrations, proving that a desktop OS didn't need to be huge and resource hungry.
But that was back in the days when everyone thought the desktop was ready for commoditisation, a fixed feature set that could be replicated by an embedded OS such as QNX or even JavaOS - the last age of the Network Computer.
Things didn't quite work out that way, and in 2004 QNX got bought by Harman International Industries, which stuck the embedded OS into cars for "infotainment" purposes - satellite navigation, music-phone interaction and electronic dashboard applications.
This is one of the reasons that RIM's so interested in the company - getting integrated into cars is important for mobile phone companies these days, and owning the OS used will help RIM get behind the wheel. Certainly the purchase won't see Harman looking for a new OS:
"We expect to maintain our close association with QNX and [believe it is] a major step in advancing seamless connectivity and integration among intelligent devices" said Dinesh Paliwal, Harman's Chairman, President and CEO.
We don't know how much RIM is paying for QNX, as neither company is giving a figure, but the relationship between Harman and RIM is probably equally important in the long term. ®