Sat, Dec 17, 2016 - Page 12 News List

BlackBerry licenses brand to Chinese phone maker TCL

OUTSOURCING:Chief executive John Chen is moving to replace falling handset revenue with software acquisitions as well as licensing deals


BlackBerry Ltd agreed to give Chinese manufacturer TCL Corp the right to use its brand on future phones and sell them around the world.

The deal, which was announced on Thursday without terms, gives investors and fans of the ailing smartphone brand a clearer picture of the future of the device that helped usher in the mobile age.

TCL has already built two phones for BlackBerry using off-the-shelf parts and blueprints: the touchscreen, Android-equipped DTEK50 and DTEK60.

BlackBerry chief executive officer John Chen (程守宗) has been weaning the company off phones since he took over the top job three years ago, replacing falling handset revenue with software acquisitions and saying in September he would outsource all device design, production and marketing.

This deal gives TCL exclusive rights to sell BlackBerrys everywhere except Indonesia, where BlackBerry has an existing licensing deal, and India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

Chen has said he is working on a deal with an Indian company, so the carve-out suggests such an agreement is still forthcoming.

A spokeswoman for BlackBerry did not immediately return a request for further details.

When Chen announced the outsourcing plan, he said the company could sign many licensing deals with manufacturers around the world, opening the possibility of dozens of BlackBerry-branded smartphones popping up in different countries.

The TCL agreement limits this to just a small handful of manufacturers, depending on what the final deal in India looks like.

BlackBerry has seen its share of the global smartphone market fall to a fraction of 1 percent, but its brand is still valued by some professionals in the US and Europe who miss the easy typing afforded by the company’s trademark keyboard.

Large groups of consumers in Indonesia and Nigeria still covet the brand’s high-class cachet.

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