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QNX licences up for grabs to anyone with a chequebook

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Troubled phone biz Research in Motion wants to license its new BlackBerry 10 operating system to anyone who can afford it in the hope of climbing out of its rut.

RIM has coyly rebuffed rumours of companies wanting to use its mobile OS, and has tried to focus on its own phone handset launches with the new software. But now chief exec Thorsten Heins has said, in an interview with Bloomberg, that his firm will consider pimping out BlackBerry 10 after all.

At the heart of BB 10 is Unixish operating system QNX: this is a neat little real-time microkernel-powered bit of tech that's aimed at cars, music players, military drones, nuclear power plants and other embedded electronics. It was snapped up by RIM in 2010 and immediately put to use in the BlackBerry Playbook tablet.

“QNX is already licensed across the automotive sector - we could do that with BB10 if we chose to,” Heins beamed. “The platform can be licensed.”

The new operating system has been delayed one time too many for investors, who have been shifting their shares in droves as the Canadian company's phones fail to excite consumers. BB10 is supposed to be the magic bullet that turns the one-time smartphone king around, but punters have been buying Apple and Android mobes while RIM's QNX-in-a-dress is busy scrubbing up.

The interview with Bloomberg was more about telling as many people as possible that RIM's OS, and everything else, is on the table, so if you're in the process of developing an embedded system and don't fancy using a tiny Linux, QNX rival VxWorks nor Google's Android, then RIM would be delighted to talk to you, as long as you've "ten sovereigns bright".

Licensing out an OS that would interact with RIM's still-popular messaging platform BBM, and the company's Enterprise Server app platform, would be contentious: those are the products that still attract users to BlackBerry, along with its unparalleled focus on security, so making them available to other manufacturers would turn RIM into a platform company which might not be a bad thing but remains entirely theoretical for the moment.

Samsung is one of the rumoured firms that could be interested in slapping BB10 into its gear, being an equal opportunities OS user with phones running Android, Windows and its own system Bada.

Meanwhile, IBM could be keen on hoovering up its enterprise services unit if that came on the market.

No one seems to be interested in taking on RIM's mobile-making biz, however, though the company has said that once BB10 comes along, it can swing that business around and hang onto it. But lately, the company line has shifted to chatting about "beyond smartphones" and "expanding product lines" and other euphemisms that suggest the firm could leave mobile-making behind, or at least reduce its importance. ®

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