BlackBerry on Thursday continued its shift away from hardware via a new long-term brand licensing agreement with TCL Communication Technology Holdings Limited.
Under the agreement, BlackBerry said it will license its security software, service suite, and related brand assets to TCL, which will “design, manufacture, sell, and provide customer support for BlackBerry-branded mobile devices.”
TCL is the fourth largest handset manufacturer in North America and among the top 10 globally, according to IDC data. The company previously collaborated with BlackBerry on the release of the DTEK50 and DTEK60 handsets. BlackBerry COO and General Manager of Mobility Solutions Ralph Pini said the company was “impressed with (TCL’s) excellence in hardware design, development, and manufacturing.”
“We are committed to creating the best portfolio solutions, while ensuring the quality support to consumers and enterprise users who trust the integrity of the BlackBerry device and the brand’s security leadership, coupled with the Android platform,” Nicolas Zibell, CEO of TCL Communication, said in a statement. “Together with BlackBerry’s smartphone software platform, this partnership will strengthen our position in the global mobile market.”
The move – which is reminiscent of Nokia’s 10-year licensing agreement with HMD Global – comes as BlackBerry continues its transition from hardware to software.
Earlier this year, CEO John Chen repeatedly hinted the company would turn its focus to software if it proved impossible to revive handset sales, and in August the company announced a new software licensing program to bring its suite of applications to Android.
In September, BlackBerry finally announced it would no longer make its signature handsets. At the time, Chen said the company believed a new focus on software was “the best way to drive profitability in the device business” since it would help BlackBerry cut expenses by removing the need to carry inventory and reducing staff and equipment requirements.