BlackBerry brand will live on in new TCL deal

Deal gives TCL Communication rights to design and make BlackBerry-branded devices

To support its transition as security software company, BlackBerry has announced a licensing partnership which will see China's TCL Communication design and manufacture BlackBerry branded mobile devices.

BlackBerry revealed in September that it would no longer be producing smartphones, and instead focus on developing more profitable security software. Thursday's deal will see TCL Communication handle all production and global distribution of new BlackBerry-branded handsets, as well as providing customer support and dedicated sales teams.

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The Canadian firm was forced to abandon the smartphone market after 20 years of production, citing strong competition from Apple and Samsung. The new deal with TCL, which is the fourth largest mobile manufacturer in the US, will ensure BlackBerry can remain competitive on the global market.

The new devices will continue to feature BlackBerry developed software, which the company claims will provide "the most secure and comprehensive software for devices around the world".

"At TCL Communication, 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," said Nicolas Zibell, CEO of TCL Communication, in a statement.

"Together with BlackBerry's smartphone software platform, this partnership will strengthen our position in the global mobile market," added Zibell.

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TCL, which also produces Alcatel branded devices, was involved in the manufacture of BlackBerry's last range of DTEK50 and DTEK60 handsets. The new deal allows TCL to manufacture and distribute devices in all regions except India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Indonesia.

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A separate joint venture announced in September gave PT BB Merah Putih the rights to sell new BlackBerry devices in Indonesia, the firm's largest handset market.

"This agreement with TCL Communication represents a key step in our strategy to focus on putting the 'smart in the phone' by providing state-of-the-art security and device software on a platform that mobile users prefer and are comfortable with," said Ralph Pini, CEO of Mobility Solutions at BlackBerry.

"TCL Communication is the natural choice to license BlackBerry's software and brand on a global scale," added Pini. With our unparalleled expertise in mobile security and software and TCL Communication's vast global reach and consumer access, we are confident that BlackBerry-branded products developed and distributed by TCL Communication will address the needs of BlackBerry users."

BlackBerry's security software division reached revenues of $156 million in the third quarter, down almost $10 million from the previous quarter.

BlackBerry has stated that further information on product roadmaps and device availability will be released in the coming months.

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