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BlackBerry's Lofty Goals Find Support In Detroit

To anyone who looks at Blackberry (BBRY) as a smartphone maker, seeing Chief Executive John Chen talk about “returning to growth and profitability” might sound a little deluded. Its 18 percent drop in fourth-quarter sales, reported this morning, seems like further proof that its products are as sexy as a Soviet calculator.

But there’s one place where BlackBerry still can’t be beat: Detroit. Its QNX software is powering the revolution in connected cars. It’s the platform where such brands as Google (GOOG) and Apple (APPL) will play. Earlier this month, Ford (F)dropped Microsoft (MSFT) in favor of QNX for its Sync system. One reason is that it’s an open standards-based system. Windows is not.

That fact may have weighed on Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella yesterday when he announced an Office product for iPad. Like Chen, he understands the importance of embracing the platforms his customers increasingly want to use. While QNX alone is unlikely to propel BlackBerry to the status it once had, it’s a critical advantage that Chen intends to exploit.

Brady is a senior editor for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York.

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