RIM, Carmakers To Integrate Blackberry Into Vehicles

Research In Motion is teaming up with carmakers to make its BlackBerry smartphones work more seamlessly in vehicles.

MONTREAL (CP) -- Research In Motion Ltd. is teaming up with carmakers to make its BlackBerry smartphones work more seamlessly in vehicles, says co-CEO Mike Lazaridis.

That hinges on making it easier to use the short-range wireless technology Bluetooth to pair the BlackBerry smartphone with the vehicle, Lazaridis said Friday.

“So what we have been doing is working closely with companies like Toyota, Lexus, BMW, Mercedes, you name it, Audi," Lazardis told the TDNewcrest technology conference in Toronto.

“We have been working with all of these companies to make sure that our Bluetooth is seamless, that when they add features they don't break the operation, when we add features we don't break the operation," he said via a Webcast.

“We're working together to a more seamless integration."

The Waterloo, Ont., company announced it recently bought Ottawa-based software company QNX Software Systems, which has a real-time operating system for information, entertainment and navigation systems in vehicles.

Lazaridis said the QNX acquisition will help RIM achieve that goal because it's already working with automakers, but gave few other details.

“There's some stuff I can't talk about today that we can now do together."

Lazaridis noted that the BlackBerry is already automatically connected to Toyota Camry models, adding it can play music from the device and show play lists.

IDC senior analyst Kevin Restivo said the BlackBerry and the car are going to be much more integrated.

“I think in the very near future we will see the Blackberry interoperate with the guts of a car a lot more easily than it has in the past," Restivo said from Toronto.

“The primary benefit for Research In Motion is to break down that last frontier where the Blackberry has not typically been used and that, of course, is the car," said Restivo, lead analyst for IDC's mobile phone tracker program.

But Restivo noted that without Bluetooth technology “knitting" this together, it would be much more difficult to achieve in vehicles.

He noted the BlackBerry could end up unlocking car doors and said there's potential for hundreds, if not thousands of other applications.

For example, drivers could have their emails read to them from a BlackBerry without the help of another device and get real-time traffic and weather updates.

First and foremost, it makes talking on the Blackberry in a car a lot easier and probably a lot safer experience in the near future. It makes it potentially a more hands-free experience, for example, if it's automatically syncing up with your dashboard," Restivo said.

Ontario and some other provinces have banned the use of cellphones while drivers are operating a car, which could open up a new market for hand-free communications devices.

But Restivo said there would be less need for Bluetooth peripheral devices that go on dashboards or sun visors because of the closer integration of the BlackBerry with the car directly through Bluetooth technology.

"There's presumably less need for those devices that you might buy."

Lazaridis said he believes the car is the "ultimate" Bluetooth peripheral device, noting it's the only "Bluetooth peripheral that we wouldn't be able to make."

Internet-connected cars are already a reality with models from Ford and Chrysler and Restivo said the acquisition may end up giving RIM an edge over software giant Microsoft when it comes to in-vehicle technology.

Ford's Sync voice-controlled system for hands-free calling and entertainment system is based on Microsoft technology.

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