RIM Produces Hybrid OS: Has it Created New Life or a Hideous Monster?

by Jeff Wiener on October 20, 2011

In the timeless horror story Frankenstein, an ambitious doctor strives to create artificial life from a mishmash of human parts, yet is horrified by the monster than he accidentally spawns from his unholy experiment. It’s a book that generations of people have read, except for perhaps the executives at Research in Motion.

In a strangely fragmented move, RIM announced that it has created a hybrid mobile operating system, taking the best parts of its Blackberry OS and its new QNX OS and combining them in its own potentially unholy mishmash of mobile technology.

Blackberry is hoping that the newly named BBX platform will bring the versatility needed to attract new developers, developers that will hopefully inspire renewed interest in the struggling company. But will RIM’s attempt at combining two mobile operating systems create new life for the company, or will it create a monster?

Recent corporate missteps and technological bungling has placed RIM at the forefront of the news, with criticism and vehement anger so rampant that I can barely turn around without seeing yet another story written about what the Blackberry maker has done wrong and how it can never recover. So you’ll have to forgive me for adding one more story to the pile.

In a continued effort to quell the fires of rage burning amongst Blackberry users after last week’s extended outage, which left Blackberry users unable to send or receive emails with their mobile device, RIM executives, having found that free apps didn’t do the trick, have decided to try their hand at innovation…sort of.

In an announcement yesterday RIM executive Mike Lazaridis unveiled the company’s new plan for its mobile operating system going forward, the hybrid BBX. The new OS is said to combine the best parts of old Blackberry OS and its relatively new QNX system, which is purportedly found on Blackberry’s Playbook tablet.

But for many analysts this sort of hybrid conglomeration of mobile operating systems spells danger in a mobile ecosystem where “unification” is the new buzz word. The concern is that in order to achieve renewed success, RIM should have picked one OS or the other, as combining two disparate systems into one platform strikes many as a desperate technological hotchpotch that has little chance of succeeding.

To be fair, however, not all of us in the telecommunications world are as pessimistic, and I for one think that the old Blackberry OS was due for an overhaul, and if QNX can provide that, then so be it. While analysts are concerned that renaming the OS will confuse diehard Blackberry fans, I tend to think that fans are smart enough to see that RIM is trying to improve itself. Of course whether or not those improvements will have the desired effect of returning RIM to its once stately position of mobile enterprise market dominance remains to be seen.

If there is one serious misstep in all of this, its that RIM has made its new BBX OS compliant with Android, allowing it to run Android apps and thus allowing developers to make their apps available on the Blackberry without redevelopment. The issue here is one we’ve seen in the past.

“[Its] the same mistake IBM(NYSE: IBM) made with its OS2 operating system,” Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld. “They focused on Windows support in OS2 for so long they basically gave control of the platform to Microsoft.”

In the end, while I remain optimistic that BBX will bring new life to the company, Android may in fact be the monster lurking beneath the surface, a monster that may make RIM executives weep over what they have accidentally created.

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