During RIM’s quarterly conference call tonight, execs announced that developer QNX handsets and platform tools will be available at their annual dev conference next month. (Update: The replay just went live, which clarified things a bit… The QNX platform will be demonstrated at DevCon and prototype phones available “in the not too distant future”. Whether that means the not too distant future from now or from DevCon is a bit murky.) When prodded about how the new operating system will interplay with the OS 7 devices that RIM is pushing so hard these days, execs answered that WebWorks would provide a common development environment, and agreed that there would be a healthy coexistence between the two platforms over the next 6-8 months.
This is a pretty big transition, and one that’s been cooking since the PlayBook was first announced this time last year. If RIM’s tablet is any indication, the operating system still has a ways to go before it reaches full maturity. Hopefully the version 2.0 upgrade will fill the big gaps, and the developer tools will be user-friendly enough to compete with iOS and Android environments.
Despite its nascent state, there’s still a ton of potential for QNX; its ability to support apps made for multiple platforms, namely Android (and potentially the old Java-based BlackBerry OS for added backwards-compatibility) is a unique advantage. Handling multimedia smoothly and multitasking stably are both major bonuses, too. Unfortunately, the competition has a head start with their own next-gen platforms, and unless RIM can keep up the pace, QNX will be left in the dust just as fast as their old operating system was.
That said, this really is RIM’s last chance to win over investor and consumer confidence; if the first QNX phone flops, BlackBerry will have a very hard time recovering.