BlackBerry Ltd. (TSX:BB)(NASDAQ:BBRY) has developed a reputation over the better part of the past decade as being a tarnished brand that primarily builds smartphones that nobody buys.
This couldn’t be further from the truth, yet for some strange reason, many investors still do not see the untapped potential that BlackBerry has to offer. In fact, things couldn’t be brighter for the Waterloo-based company.
Here’s a look at some of the ways BlackBerry is set to grow over the next few years.
QNX and the automotive sector
QNX is the underlying operating system at the core of BlackBerry’s proprietary BB10 mobile operating system that launched in 2013. While the company has since adopted Android for new handsets moving forward, BB10 remains a highly secure, scalable, and stable mobile-operating system used by countless businesses across the globe.
While development of BB10 has scaled down as Android development has ramped up, the power of QNX is not limited to BB10 by any means. QNX is also used in the automotive industry, powering the infotainment systems in over 60 million vehicles on the road today; it’s also used in everything from medical equipment to nuclear power plants.
At the CES show earlier this month, BlackBerry released the latest version of QNX, which the company noted “can run highly complex software, including neural networks and artificial intelligence algorithms.”
The ramifications of this release are huge, particularly with respect to the automotive sector. Automotive manufacturers are working vigorously on improving the concept of autonomous driving — in other words, an autopilot for cars. And while the technologies needed to bring the autopilot to market already exist as features in some vehicles today, such as blind-spot monitoring, cross-detection warnings, object-sensing radar, and autonomous braking, these systems operate largely independent of each other.
QNX could be the key to linking all of these systems into a truly autonomous driving experience, which could spell lucrative fortunes for BlackBerry in the long run.
If you think this is far off from reality, just remember that late last year BlackBerry was one of three companies that were granted approval to begin autonomous drive testing in Ontario.
A logical entry into cyber-security
Industry experts will say that BlackBerry is not a hardware company, but rather a software company that places an emphasis on security. While this is true, reaching out to the market and offering security services has never been something that BlackBerry has considered or embraced until last year, when the company acquired a U.K.-based cyber-security firm and began to offer those services.
The new cyber-security arm of the company is not only a natural extension of the enterprise services that BlackBerry offers, but it’s set to become a driving force and revenue generator in the next few years.
Device interest remains strong
BlackBerry has long been associated with the iconic hardware devices the company used to manufacture. While BlackBerry no longer develops devices directly, new BlackBerry-branded devices still attract a wild following from both users and the media.
During CES, BlackBerry provided a quick view into the latest device set to be released, codenamed the Mercury. The Mercury is unlike other devices on the market in that it will feature a fully exposed physical keyboard and a fingerprint sensor embedded into the keyboard.
Physical keyboard devices are unique to BlackBerry devices as virtually all other manufacturers have turned to offering full-touch offerings. BlackBerry’s last fully exposed physical keyboard device was the Classic, which was released several years ago.
The Mercury, which is set to be released next month, will be the first Android device sporting a fully exposed keyboard. BlackBerry’s previous keyboard device, the Priv, had a keyboard in slider form.
Is BlackBerry a good investment?
A turnaround on the scale of what BlackBerry has been working on is time consuming and challenging, and what has been accomplished under Chen is both impressive and intriguing.
While BlackBerry hasn’t completed that turnaround yet, there is a clear indication of where the company is being positioned for future growth and profit.
BlackBerry may still be too risky of an investment for most, but, in my opinion, investors who can tolerate the significant risk that BlackBerry represents over the short term may want to invest.
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Fool contributor Demetris Afxentiou has no position in any stocks mentioned.