According to sources in the know, Blackberry’s QNX technology will soon replace Microsoft to power Ford’s Sync system. QNX is less buggy — and will save Ford money over licensing Microsoft technology — plus improve the speed and flexibility of the next generation Sync system.
With more than 7 million Ford vehicles on the road using Microsoft’s voice-activated Sync software to make mobile-phone calls, play music, and perform other routine tasks, the bugs in it continue to persist. In spite of being perhaps the most user-friendly interface in any vehicle on the market today, Microsoft’s Sync technology has simply never worked completely right.
Switching to Blackberry’s technology may help Ford — America’s second largest automaker — resolve ongoing customer complaints about malfunctioning touch screens and other tech systems, which have hurt it in surveys by Consumer Reports and J.D. Power & Associates. BlackBerry’s QNX Software System is already found in cars made by Audi and BMW.
For BlackBerry, once the darling of business people for email and corporate communication, it’s a vote of confidence in a company caught flat-footed by Apple’s iPhone. Blackberry lost 95 percent of its market value between mid-2008 when the iPhone hit the market, and this past November. It also saw a proposed $4.7 billion buyout deal fall apart, so connecting with Ford would be a huge dose of trust and confidence — not to mention much-needed revenue — for the company.
Spokespeople for Ford, Blackberry, and Microsoft all declined comment on the possible switch.
Tech companies are competing heavily to win business from automakers as in-car technology becomes an increasingly important selling point, which is why improving the performance of Sync is critical for Ford. According to a study by the consulting firm Accenture released in December, in-vehicle technology is the number one selling point for 39 percent of car buyers — more than twice the 14 percent who say their first considerations are power, speed and handling. The problems with Sync were part of the reason Ford and its luxury brand, Lincoln, ranked 26 and 27 out of 28 brands in Consumer Reports annual auto-reliability survey released in October.
Google reportedly has inked agreements with General Motors, Honda, and Hyundai to bring the Android operating system to their cars. Apple meanwhile is working with BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and others to adapt its popular iOS operating system to cars and couple it with devices such as the iPhone and iPad.
In spite of having software in Nissan, Kia, Fiat, and BMW vehicles, the switch to QNX would deal a significant blow to Microsoft’s automotive-software business because Ford is by far its biggest customer. Powering the Ford system will expand QNX s industry-leading position for automotive infotainment operating systems, which is estimated to be as high as 70 percent.