RIM invites its developers to test drive the connected car


BlackBerry developers may be losing enthusiasm for RIM’s newest operating system, BlackBerry 10, which has yet to make its way into a commercial smartphone, but on Tuesday RIM presented its developers with a new option: write code for the connected car.

At the SAE Convergence conference, RIM’s software subsidiary QNX unveiled the new software developer kit (SDK) for its forthcoming connected car application platform, which QNX simply calls Car 2. The platform is an extension of RIM’s BlackBerry WebWorks HTML5 framework, so a developer building an app for the BlackBerry 10 platform could use the exact same HTML and JavaScript tools to create apps for Car 2.

Emulating the smartphone development environment, QNX plans to expose connected car application programming interfaces (APIs) such as to GPS and navigation, car stereo and multimedia functions and even the climate control systems. Finally, QNX plans to launch the equivalent of App World for the car – a central marketplace where developers can upload their apps and buyers can purchase them.

The big difference: in the case of the connected car, those buyers aren’t car owners. They’re the automakers. Because of safety issues of a device platform moving at 60 mph, all connected car platform makers are putting up a lot more barriers between developer and consumer.

While the policy makes sense, as highly distracting apps could cause highway accidents, it’s also slowed the pace of development in cars to a crawl. Most connected car platforms out there only have a handful of apps, and for the most part automakers have leaned toward audio streaming apps like Pandora and Stitcher, as well as navigation and mapping services.

Still, by creating a development platform that bridges the smartphone and car infotainment worlds, RIM is making it easier for potential developer partners to experiment in the connected car space. And while RIM’s fortunes are declining in the smartphone market, QNX is still a powerhouse in automotive. Its software powers the infotainment, instrument and telematics systems of over 200 makes and models of vehicles.

Car 2 is meant to be the next generation of its automotive strategy, opening up its software to a much larger development community and creating a much more powerful platform for apps and services. On Tuesday, RIM also announced it was working with Nvidia to integrate the latter’s Tegra processors into Car 2-based infotainment systems.

BlackBerry developers hoping to take a crack at Car 2 will have to wait a little longer though. The platform itself will debut among automakers in the fourth quarter. In the first quarter of 2013, RIM will launch the app marketplace and make the SDK available to “qualified” developers. There’s no word yet if it plans to open up the program to all comers.

Mouse car image courtesy of Shutterstock user Mopic

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