BlackBerry Gives China's TCL Rights to Use Its Brand on Phonesby
Deal cements the future of the iconic "crackberry" device
Agreement hints that another licensing deal in India is coming
The deal, which was announced 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 touch screen, Android-equipped DTEK50 and DTEK60.
Chief Executive Officer John Chen 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’s working on a deal with an Indian company, so the carve-out suggests such an agreement is still forthcoming. A spokeswoman for BlackBerry didn’t 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 U.S. 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.