Apple Inc. has reportedly hired Dan Dodge, the recently resigned founder and CEO of QNX Software Systems, which was acquired by BlackBerry in 2010, according to a Bloomberg report, citing “people with knowledge of the efforts” with regard both to Dodge’s hiring and Apple’s secretive plans to expand its near-secret automobile division, which people refer to as Project Titan.
Dodge resigned from QNX in December, telling Crackberry at the time, “My decision to leave was my own. I threw my own party, invited everybody from QNX that I’ve known over the last 35 years and we had a grand time.”
Dodge reportedly began working for Apple in January.
QNX was founded in 1980 and eventually sold to Harman International in 2004, before being acquired by BlackBerry in 2010.
Under Dodge, QNX developed the BB10 operating system, much loved by BlackBerry phone users but now effectively dead as the company transitions to building branded phones running the Android operating system.
With the collapse of BlackBerry’s handset business, CEO John Chen has taken some deserved pride in pointing out that handsets are the only one of five BlackBerry divisions that loses money, with their star division, QNX, being a particular cause for optimism.
In January, Apple leased some office space in the Kanata Research Park across the street from QNX headquarters, a development that many took to be a sign that Apple was expanding its push into automobile research and development.
Apple has never publicly announced or acknowledged Project Titan’s existence.
The problem with Dodge’s hiring, as far as BlackBerry is concerned, is that QNX has been one of the bright points within BlackBerry that the company can point to when convincing investors that BlackBerry has a future outside of its money-losing handset division.
This wouldn’t be the first time BlackBerry has allowed an ex-employee to make a success out of something the company failed to capitalize on, despite the opportunity staring them in the face.
Kik Interactive, founded in 2009 by ex-BlackBerry employee Ted Livingston, was the result of Livingston’s attempt to convince Research in Motion to take BlackBerry Messenger cross-platform, a move that the company declined, which prompted Livingston to set out on his own.
Kik, a privately held company, now has a valuation of more than $1 billion. To say that BlackBerry must be kicking itself, pun intended, would be an understatement.
And now Apple has hired the person who invented QNX and knows its software better than anyone on the planet, more so probably than people still working at QNX.
If Apple, through sheer force of acquisition, can eat BlackBerry’s lunch in the domain that QNX perfected for them, it would yet be another instance of Apple eating BlackBerry’s lunch, the first time of course being the near total decimation of BlackBerry’s once dominant profile in the smartphone market.
QNX has been racking up serious wins in the automotive technologies sector, doing brisk business with their digital instrument clusters, one of the fastest growing segments in automotive electronics, as well as becoming the leading software supplier for vehicle entertainment systems, QNX’s version of which is now deployed in over 60 million cars, including for Volkswagen, Daimler, Ford and others.
Apple’s Project Titan is headed by Bob Mansfield, who reports directly to CEO Tim Cook. Dodge will reportedly work on Project Titan’s software team, reporting to John Wright, who reports to Mansfield.
Project Titan, based out of a secret facility in Sunnyvale, California, has reportedly been targeting a release of some kind of automotive project for 2020, employing hundred of engineers to push the project forward, which has been repeatedly set back by personality conflicts, sudden personnel departures and technical problems.
The move to hire Dodge could signal a realization on Apple’s part that building an actual Apple-branded car is a mug’s game, and that making the software that runs in automobiles is where the action is, a specialization that has been perfected by QNX.
Apple has always famously spent a much lower portion of its revenue on R&D than its rivals, Google, Facebook and Qualcomm, despite having enormous cash reserves.
Recently, however, Apple upped its R&D spending during 2015 to slightly more than US$8 billion, a 34% increase over 2014, on global revenues of US$233 billion.
In the first three months through June, Apple’s R&D spend jumped by 25% compared with the same period in the previous year, to US$2.6 billion.
So they’re up to something. Self-driving car? Project Titan? Eating BlackBerry’s lunch? Again?
Apple declined comment for the Bloomberg story.