Vivek Bhardwaj is one of the very familiar faces at BlackBerry. He has taken us through quite a few BlackBerry 10 demoes both before and after launch. He holds the position of the Head of Software Portfolio for BlackBerry and I had the opportunity to have a chat with him at BlackBerry Live along with some other fellow journalists from different parts of the world.
The hot topic of conversation was obviously BlackBerry Messenger coming to iOS and Android. I asked him why launch now and not a few years back?
We are now at a point where we have a strong mobile platform that will take us through the next decade. We took the time to build the BlackBerry 10 platform and made sure all parts of the infrastructure were in place. Our long term vision is to make sure BlackBerry 10 can connect, understand and adapt to your environment and if we’re not able to bring that platform or components of it such as BBM to other pieces of hardware, that makes it difficult for us to achieve that goal. We are very focused on achieving mobile computing vision and for us to limit that on a short set of smartphones makes is a bit short sighted.
Building the actual app on iOS and Android was the easy part. We look at it as an opportunity for us to own the mobile messaging space. Our goal is to get feature parity across all platforms with chat, videos and channels and screencasts etc. When you look at multimedia aspects, there could be limitations based on platforms but our goal is to get feature parity. We’re not excluding other platforms, but our focus needs to be on those that can get BBM to the masses and data shows that are iOS and Android.
Does this open the door for BlackBerry providing more applications on other platforms such as BlackBerry Travel?
That’s potentially possible but BBM is a service, not an application. The management of services and content in BBM is not dependent on a third party farm that we’ve hired. This is BlackBerry’s network. It’s not just about us putting an app, but delivering a service. Our current focus is not on applications, but building BBM. We have chat, groups, video, screen share, voice, channels- those are things we want to build out. That’s our focus.
How does BlackBerry 10 in a car fit in?
We are no longer a smartphone maker. We are a platform company- software, services, solution company. Whether thats BlackBerry 10 in a car or BBM on another device, it’s BlackBerry. I think you’re gonna see a lot more of us wanting to take BlackBerry 10 into as many verticals as possible. Automotive is clear but we’re looking into healthcare, financial services etc. The demo you saw about a video chat, we pretty much took a PIN from BlackBerry and put it in the car but the infrastructure to handle the video and touch is exact same as BlackBerry 10. On my side, all I saw was a video chat request in BBM just like I would get from any other contact.
We’re in discussions with number of Auto makers. We also had Mercedes on stage today. The demonstration we provided (about software update for the car) is something we can do today. This isn’t about any cloud company coming to car manufacturers offering software update that reboots the car- its not instructions that car companies can give their customers. We have the largest private network and the most secured network. QNX is already in the car.
Apple recently announced the integrating of iPhone with Beetle. How does QNX come into play with that?
I think it’s worth taking some time meeting the QNX team at BlackBerry Live to learn more on that. There are a number of players that are behind this. If a company says that they’ve integrated with the dashboard, there’s varied degrees of controls they’ve integrated. For example, the screen software is written by screen manufacturers. You’ll find QNX at varied levels in the car. With some cars, at some levels it provides basic telematics while with others, its almost at the top to what the end-user sees. QNX can be just one step away from what the user sees. We’ve partnered with Audi, VW, BMW, Jeep, Mercedes and we’re embedded across a million cars.
With BlackBerry 10, why didn’t you take the same approach as Apple of bypassing the carrier and providing software updates directly to the user from BlackBerry?
Carries are still involved- even with other vendors. There is no clean way of throwing a software update. We have responsibilities- that updates could be handled by every networks and as soon as you touch anything with networks, they need to be involved. What I can say is that thirty days of the launch of Z10, we got a maintenance release out- that’s faster than we’ve ever done. Sixty days after that, we’ve got 10.1 out.
You’ll see big updates from us at regular intervals. With Q10, we actually had a faster turnaround on software going into our carrier labs and coming out approved than the Z10. we’re already showing a much stabler platform. Carriers will always be part of that process but we’re certainly going to be as fast as possible. Q5 will be launching with 10.1 but a later built and we’re going to keep that up.