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BlackBerry licensing deal signals new era for former device maker

Waterloo, Ontario’s BlackBerry is in the midst of a comeback, or at least a re-emergence in the tech market, this time as a purveyor of mobile software and services.

The company’s recent announcement of record profits helped buoy a flat TSX this week, while its new licensing agreement with Chinese contract manufacturer Yangzhou New Telecom Science & Technology Co. (known as NTD) shows that a shift away from making its own mobile phones is starting to bear fruit.

Once at the top of the smart phone market, BlackBerry’s fall into near obscurity has subsequently provided it with an opportunity for reinvention, and, now holding a wealth of technology and patents in hand, the company is ready to reap the rewards. The new deal sees BlackBerry licensing its version of Alphabet Inc.’s Android software to NTD, which reportedly has deals in place with carriers in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Alex Thurber, head of mobility solutions for BlackBerry, says the new agreement speaks to the demand for BlackBerry’s products. “Until you’ve actually got a deal with ink on the paper it’s all that, it’s just talk,” Thurber said to Bloomberg News. “I’m excited that we now have partners committed.”

The deal will see BlackBerry, which quit making its own phones last year, employ its security tech in an all-touch smart phone alongside secure enterprise technology from Zurich-based Equiis Technologies.

“This marks the next phase of our licensing strategy, which is focused on enabling vendors to bring to market mobile communication devices that aren’t just secure, but BlackBerry Secure,” said Thurber in a press release. ”We’re thrilled to partner with NTD and Equiis and look forward to extending this dynamic relationship to include more carriers and a range of devices.”

On Thursday, shares of BlackBerry jumped 12 per cent in response to better-than-expected quarterly profits. Overall, BlackBerry shares are now up 50 per cent in 2017.

“We made great progress in all our key growth initiatives . . . all of these accomplishments position us well for future growth,” said CEO John Chen on Thursday, according to the Toronto Star. Chen called the company’s more sunny outlook a result of its “transformation to a software company.”

The BlackBerry brand still has power, as shown by news of a new BlackBerry Krypton smartphone on the horizon, manufactured by Chinese electronics company TCL Corporation, which earlier released the BlackBerry KEYone. Unlike the KEYone, the Krypton will not feature a QWERTY keyboard but will have a fullscreen display and is expected to retail for $499 US.

BlackBerry technology still has a strong association with security, according to Eugene Li, chief executive officer of NTD, who says that more and more, customers appreciate the value in secure systems. “With hacks and other malicious threats directed towards all connected devices on the rise, we’re proud to be able to offer our customers BlackBerry Secure smart phones,” said Eugene Li, chief executive officer of NTD. “Providing this level of security will give our customers peace of mind while communicating for business or just in their everyday lives.”

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About The Author /

Jayson is a writer, researcher and educator with a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Ottawa. His interests range from bioethics and innovations in the health sciences to governance, social justice and the history of ideas.

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