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RIM to use cars to shift PlayBook sales up a gear

rim logoFancy checking your e-mail, launching apps or sorting through your music collection while hurtling down the highway at 70mph without having to fumble about in your pockets for your smartphone?

If Blackberry-maker Research In Motion has its way, you might be able to do just that, although it would be advisable to pull over before attempting any of the aforementioned actions.

A Wall Street Journal report out Friday said the Canadian company is gearing up to make some serious moves in bringing its mobile technology to cars. RIM already has a foothold in the industry, having purchased QNX Software Systems last year, a company behind entertainment and control systems already found in more than 20 million cars worldwide. The software is also used to run RIM’s new PlayBook tablet, and will eventually find its way into BlackBerry smartphones.

According to the WSJ, RIM is hoping to transform the car dashboard “into a computer that can read e-mail, launch apps or play music stored on mobile devices.” The car itself would be connected to the Internet.

QNX is also looking at the feasibility of using a PlayBook or BlackBerry to connect the car to the Internet, with touch panels close to the steering wheel or voice commands to control the devices.

RIM is evidently wasting little time in pushing forward with its ideas. Demonstration models with the new tech could be shown off in the fall, believes QNX vice president of sales and marketing Derek Kuhn.

Of course, many car manufacturers have long been integrating tech into its cars. As the report highlights, Ford, for example, has a system which allows drivers to control their cell phones with voice commands. And this year Toyota introduced a system, using QNX software, whereby a smartphone can be used to connect to the Internet. Facebook fans might want to take a closer look at cars manufactured by General Motors – they have a system where drivers can update their status using voice commands. That also uses QNX software. RIM could generate revenue in this market through the licensing of their system to car manufacturers.

On the subject of safety, QNX’s software is being designed so as to prevent drivers watching, for example, YouTube videos while the car’s in motion.

Ottawa-based RIM will be keen to get its PlayBook, as well as QNX software, into more of the world’s cars. Reviews of the recently released tablet were lukewarm, but getting ahead in a market such as this could certainly help to push sales of the device.

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Trevor Mogg
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