Posts Tagged ‘BlackBerry’

BlackBerry’s QNX Software develops sound system to give quiet cars a retro roar

January 8th, 2014

For car lovers, there is just something about a revving engine that gets the blood moving faster.

Now automakers can capitalize on that feeling by teaming with a division of BlackBerry that is developing a way to replicate the sound of yesteryear’s driving experience, even as cars become quieter and more fuel efficient.

QNX Software Systems — acquired by BlackBerry nearly four years ago — debuted a couple of concept cars on Tuesday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

One is a modified Kia Soul hatchback that showcases a new technology called “engine sound enhancement.” In its most basic form, it’s a soundtrack that simulates the engine both inside the car and for people on the outside through speakers.

QNX is also displaying a modified Mercedes CLA45 that has an “infotainment” system built into the dashboard. The technology utilizes speech recognition and supports applications on the Android Jellybean operating system.

QNX sales and marketing vice-president Derek Kuhn said the sound simulator in the Kia is aimed at drivers who want a car that is better for the environment but still maintains a sporty feel. In electric cars, the sound can also help prevent accidents with pedestrians who don’t hear the engine.

The technology is an answer to the requests from vehicle manufacturers who have managed to lighten the weight of their models over the years by removing insulation and other parts that have grown to be unnecessary.

“Unfortunately when you take insulation out … it starts to add strange noises that you’ve never really heard before in cars,” Kuhn said in a phone interview from Vegas.

“Adding a very careful soundtrack to how you develop that emotion within the cabin is important.”

For automakers, it’s crucial to get a vehicle’s sound right, Kuhn said. If a car doesn’t make the right noises, then often drivers will think something is wrong with it.

The challenge is that every automaker wants a different sound, and the purr — or roar — of an engine can be as much an act of branding as it’s an exercise in authenticity.

Kuhn said one manufacturer was very particular when it asked musicians to enter a recording studio.

“They wanted their car to sound like the cross between a certain brand of bass guitar and a snow leopard,” he said.

“Different companies have different opinions. Some of them just want a certain kind of exhaust note.”

The QNX technology in the Mercedes includes an app that operates on HTML5 — one of the programming languages used to create web pages — and allows drivers to control the windows, door locks and car stereo from a key fob.

The car offers a preview of what’s to come in the next five years for the automotive industry.

Manufacturers like Chrysler, Fiat and Honda already use QNX software in vehicles on the roads today, including the company’s echo and noise cancellation technology designed for hands-free smartphones.

In 2013, QNX software was shipped in 11.6 million vehicles around the world, Kuhn said.

Developing new ideas for automakers is a key part of the future of QNX, but the company isn’t without its challengers.

Google threw its name into the mix on Monday with the promise of an Android-based system developed in partnership with Audi, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai and graphics processor Nvidia called the Open Automotive Alliance.

Together, the companies aim to make it easier for drivers to connect their Android operated phones to their car’s audio system.

QNX has dedicated its business to tinkering with these intricacies in the world of complex computer software — but the company isn’t just about the automotive industry.

In the health care industry, QNX software is built into the diagnostics of blood analytics systems some defibrillators and X-ray machines. The U.S. military has software developed by the company running in its submarines. And in Las Vegas, security software from QNX is deep inside slot machines.

When BlackBerry purchased QNX in 2010, the developer began designing the smartphone operating system that would become the platform for BlackBerry 10 phones.

BlackBerry was falling behind competitors like Google and Apple who were rapidly advancing with their own phones, which ran application technology that would cripple older BlackBerry devices.

“It was a massive win for BlackBerry because they needed an operating system,” said Kris Thompson, a technology analyst at National Bank.

“That saved their bacon.”

On Tuesday, BlackBerry shares rose 7.4 per cent, or 63 cents, to close at $9.14 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.


BlackBerry co-founder cuts stake as company shifts to software and services

December 30th, 2013

Mike Lazaridis, one of BlackBerry’s founders, has cut his stake in the struggling company from 5.7% at the end of 2012 to 4.99% as its woes continued.

A holding company that Lazaridis controls took advantage of a jump in the company’s share price – despite it reporting a quarterly loss of $4.4bn and a 56% slump in revenues – to sell 3.4m shares, realising $26.45m. But there might be almost no profit in the move, as he had increased his holding by 3.1m shares in 2012 – and during that year the price of BlackBerry shares was almost always higher than the recent sale price.

Lazaridis’s move, noted in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), comes after he failed to gather finance for a buyout of the company during the summer as it looked as though it was going to be sold for $4.9bn to a consortium led by Fairfax Holdings, a Canadian private equity group.

Lazaridis, 52, had increased his holding at the end of 2012 by 3.1m shares, apparently in expectation that the release of the new BB10 software in January would boost the company back towards the success it had enjoyed between 2007 and 2010. But his former co-chief executive Jim Balsillie, who with Lazaridis piloted the company towards its global success, sold all of his 26.8m shareholding – 5.1% of the shares – by the end of 2012.

That could mean that Lazaridis has taken a loss on the 3.1m shares bought in 2012 unless he bought them in a narrow window between 19 and 26 September, when the price was below $7.

Handset exit

Last week BlackBerry announced that it was effectively giving up making handsets as sales of its new BB10 models disappointed for the third quarter in a row, posting a $4.4bn quarterly net loss on revenues that had plunged 56% to $1.2bn. The company is likely to have dropped out of the world’s ten largest suppliers of smartphones for the Christmas quarter.

Yet investors have indicated that they see promise in the plans by the new BlackBerry chief executive, John Chen, to turn it into an enterprise software company handing off handset design responsibility to Foxconn, the Taiwanese manufacturing company that also assembles phones and tablets for Apple.

For Foxconn the five-year deal, announced by Chen on Friday, will give it the chance to design BB10 handsets aimed at markets in southeast Asia – the third-largest business segment by revenue for BlackBerry after the Europe, Mideast-Africa and North American segments.

Foxconn, however, will also be taking on the “inventory risk” – the problem of being left with handsets that customers don’t want and which it cannot sell. BlackBerry has successively written down $934m and $1.6bn on unsold inventory of handsets and other inventory, mostly of BB10 handsets.


BlackBerry removes latest Twitter app update

December 30th, 2013

BlackBerry has pulled the latest update to the Twitter app for BlackBerry 10.

The struggling company said Twitter version 10.2.2 has been removed from BlackBerry World due to user reported issues. It added that the company would actively investigate and provide an update here when Twitter 10.2.2 has been reposted.

According to CNET, version 10.2.2 of the app, which was just released on December 17, brought several enhancements, including BBM connectivity, timeline photo previews, and improved search and reply functions.

BlackBerry decided to pull the update after users reported loading issues and crashes. It is unclear when the updated Twitter app will return to BlackBerry’s app marketplace.


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