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Can BlackBerry Ltd. Make a Comeback like Apple Inc.?

In the 80s, new Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO John Scully pushed Steve Jobs out as the company’s fortunes dwindled. By 1997, Jobs was back at a much smaller Apple where he and his team designed the next big things in technological history: the MacBook, iPad, and iPhone. Within 15 years, Apple was the world’s largest company. The comeback was breathtaking.

BlackBerry Ltd. (TSX:BB)(NASDAQ:BBRY) hit its highest stock price of $241 per share in July 2007 when it was called Research in Motion. However, the company’s phone subscriptions numbers didn’t reach their peak of 85 million until September 2013, when its stock price was at $10–about where it languishes today.

How did that happen?

In Techland, only very new things sustain substantial profit margins. Fax machines, computers, and phones all become commoditized quickly. Competition arrives shortly after the new innovation, and profit margins get crushed, as does the stock.

In Techland, the early bird innovator catches the worm.

Imagine it is 2023, and you are cruising along the British Columbian coast in your brand new “robot-in-charge” GMC Cadillac. You are sitting in the passenger seat, pleasantly sipping a single malt scotch, which is legally possible if your vehicle is robot-controlled.

Suddenly, the wheel jerks left, the car careens off the cliff towards the ocean, and your last thoughts are, “My car has been hacked,” and “Why didn’t I buy the Ford Lincoln with its state-of-the-art BlackBerry QNX security software?”

When consumers get hacked today, they can lose credibility, confidentiality, and money, but they don’t lose their lives. But in our very near future, as more and more human jobs become automated, cyber security will become synonymous with safety.

Apple’s comeback required the company be pared to its core, while BlackBerry is dependent on cultivating the microkernel of its QNX operating system. QNX is a proven favourite in the worldwide automotive industry, guiding 3D navigation systems in 60 million vehicles from 250 different car manufacturers.

Apple facilitated its expansion through cash injections from moneyed partner Microsoft. BlackBerry has expanded its relationship to help its partner Ford populate public roads with a fleet of fully autonomous vehicles within five years’ time.

QNX is responsible for the seamless integration of navigation, radio, mobile phone, and media player applications in today’s Ford vehicles. BlackBerry has committed a team of engineers to Ford to innovate QNX Neutrino Operating System, Certicom security technology, QNX hypervisor, and QNX audio-processing software.

This partnership draws on BlackBerry’s history of developing invulnerable software for sensitive industries like transportation, medical, security, and defense. By focusing on its essential strength, BlackBerry will establish the cyber-security gold standard for occupied or network-dispatched vehicles in an ever-increasingly paranoid surveillance age.

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Fool contributor Drew Currah has no position in any stocks mentioned. David Gardner owns shares of Apple and Ford. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Ford, and Microsoft and has the following options: long January 2018 $90 calls on Apple and short January 2018 $95 calls on Apple.

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