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RIM's Heins beams: BB10 must walk the walk before we talk the talk

Door held ajar for nuke-plant smartphone OS licensing

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Vid RIM will leave the door open for those wishing to license its QNX-powered smartphone operating system - but not just yet.

CEO Thorsten Heins has told Die Welt that BlackBerry OS 10 must prove itself in the marketplace before any deals can be cut, but he didn't rule out any agreements.

“First we have to fulfil our promises. If we do, licensing is conceivable,” Heins told the paper [German original, English translation].

RIM was late to replace its ageing BlackBerry software - which is essentially a Java phone platform, these days - and acquired the veteran real-time OS QNX in 2010. Despite being sophisticated and mature - it's embedded in all sorts of things from nuclear power plants to cars - QNX had no smartphone-ready interface, so RIM had to build much of it by hand, from scratch.


A very German look at BB10

Today, RIM is the only mobile manufacturer other than Apple that develops its own platform in-house, taking on the huge cost burden of developing the software and integrating it with new hardware. Some analysts have long urged RIM to abandon the hardware and become a software licensing company: RIM has a social network with 60 million users in the shape of BlackBerry Messenger.

The problem with that strategy is that RIM would then compete against free platforms, particularly Google's Android. And patent royalty issues mean even "free" is expensive. Not to mention the fact that analysts spent 20 years trying to persuade Apple to abandon hardware, before the Cupertino giant demonstrated the value (and high profit margins) that come from running a vertically-integrated business.

And as Heins says, BB10 has to show its mettle before anyone bites. RIM is likely to unveil the first two of several (perhaps six) new BB10 devices at a launch event on 30 January. ®

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