Automotive > Infotainment & Telematics Blog

Why Amazon Buying Blackberry Makes Sense

by Roger Lanctot | Oct 20, 2013

At a time when Apple, Google and Microsoft are all intensifying their flirtation with auto makers in an attempt to capture the fourth (fifth?) screen, an Amazon acquisition of Blackberry suddenly makes a lot of sense.  Amazon has the assets, the content, the delivery platform and the global reach to fulfill much of the cloud connectivity vision increasingly sought by car makers.  All that’s missing are the car company and Tier 1 connections to stitch it all together – which is where QNX comes in.

The digital world is coalescing around a multi-screen vision focused on content delivery, application penetration and e-commerce reaching consumers at every touch point of their connected lives.  Amazon has mastered selling things to people wherever they may be on their computer, watching television or on their mobile device – or even via their Kindle e-reader.  The last frontier for Amazon is the car.

While Apple, Google and Microsoft have overtly pushed their search engines, device connections, cloud resources and operating systems, Amazon has quietly muscled its way to market leadership in online commerce and back-end service support.  Amazon has also shoved its way to the top of the e-reader heap, putting itself into the mobile device business for the first time with the Kindle.

Along the way Amazon has embraced and modified Android for its own purposes and acquired two automotive-facing assets – Audible (an application and Website for delivering electronic books) and Ivona (a natural sounding text-to-speech solution) both already positioned for automotive deployment.  (Audible is actually available as part of BMW’s BMW Apps offering.  And Amazon's Cloud Player has been deployed by Ford.)  Amazon’s servers are already supporting mobile apps being used in cars and its content delivery and e-commerce system is perfect for the range of LTE-equipped cars and emerging in-car commerce solutions soon to be rolling out of auto factories around the world.

An acquisition of Blackberry will give Amazon instant credibility in the automotive industry with the QNX real-time operating system, already used in the majority of high-end and mid-range automotive infotainment systems.  Amazon will also gain access to Blackberry’s highly reliable and secure messaging platform suitable for both automotive and mobile device applications.  And car makers determined to enable an app store experience in the car will find one ready-made from Amazon.

QNX OEM partners: BMW, PSA, Audi, Hyundai, Chrysler, GM, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Daewoo, Land Rover, and Porsche

QNX Tier 1 partners: Johnson Controls, Panasonic, Mitsubishi Electric, Garmin, Harman, Denso, Visteon

Even more valuable to Amazon than the automotive play, though, is the mobile play.  A Blackberry acquisition allows Amazon to dive directly into the deep end of the mobile handset business and leverage its differentiating content delivery assets for a one-of-kind mobile experience that extends the company’s existing mobile device footprint.

A combination messaging device and e-reader with cutting edge audio and video delivery capabilities and seamless e-commerce elements is a powerful counterpoint to the Apple-Google duopoly and effectively counters Microsoft’s nascent Windows Phone 8 efforts.  For Blackberry, Amazon is everything that Blackberry isn’t.  Summed up in one hyphenated word Amazon is: consumer-friendly.

Blackberry lost its way following the onset of the iPhone and the rise of Android.  The company was unable to define an attractive third path and is struggling to rebuild its unique selling proposition.  Amazon has precisely the assets and brand cachet that Blackberry needs to reposition itself in the market.

Less obvious is the fact that an Amazon acquisition restores confidence among consumers and corporate customers alike.  The acquisition will also reinforce the Android-centric message – even though Blackberry is using QNX – Blackberry phones  already support Android, which makes it perfectly compatible with Amazon.

Finally, Amazon can slide directly into all of Blackberry’s existing carrier and retail relationships as it nears the launch of its own wireless device, widely rumored to arrive in time for the holidays.

For Blackberry a tie-up with Amazon restores OEM confidence in the longevity of Blackberry as a company and its QNX division as a supplier of real-time operating system software.  Such an acquisition marries solid automotive credentials and a secure mobile messaging platform with cloud service resources and the world’s largest e-commerce platform.

Such a move also allows car companies to steer clear of Google and Apple with their competing agendas (Google: to sell search-based advertising; Apple: to sell mobile devices).  The only issue that remains to be resolved is whether car makers will welcome Amazon into the aftermarket.

Amazon already offers online access to a wide range of auto parts, supplies and accessories.  A direct engagement with the auto industry could transform this existing retail activity and might, eventually, lead to direct sales of used and new cars – or even car insurance, collision aftercare or vehicle service.  Amazon could facilitate the process of car companies or their dealers opening stores on Amazon.

More than Google, Apple and Microsoft, Amazon understands the power and value of e-commerce.  An acquisition of Blackberry opens wide the door to two large industries, wireless and automotive.  The time is right if Amazon is ready to disrupt both of these markets – and if the auto industry is ready to accept this large yet scrappy newcomer.

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