The operating system powering future BlackBerry smartphones might be able to do something very unusual: run applications written for the rival Android OS.
The BlackBerry platform is selling well today, but its long-term prospects are dim because it is falling way behind the Apple iOS and Google Android OS in third-party software. Both of these rival platforms have hundreds of thousands of apps, while there are far, far fewer for devices made by Research In Motion (RIM).
Further complicating this is RIM’s plan to switch from the BlackBerry OS to a new one based on the QNX OS. This move is being made first in the upcoming PlayBook tablet, but company executives have said that smartphones will make the jump in a couple of years.
Devices running the QNX-based OS will need to include a Java virtual machine to run legacy BlackBerry apps, and an unconfirmed report indicates that RIM is seriously considering using the Dalvik virtual machine. This is a Java VM developed by Google for the Android OS.
Including Dalvik, as well as including a number of other system tools, would allow future BlackBerry smartphones and tablets to run Android OS software.
Android is an open-source operating system, so RIM theoretically could do this even without Google’s help. Or Google could be involved, raising the possibility of other Android OS features making the jump to future BlackBerrys.