BlackBerry, which pulled the plug on its ailing hardware business in September last year, has entered into a long term licensing agreement with Optiemus Infracom for producing BlackBerry-branded handsets with its software and services, in markets including India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Optiemus will be responsible for designing, manufacturing, selling, promoting and providing customer support for the BlackBerry-branded mobile devices. BlackBerry has also licenses its security software and services suite, and other related brand assets to Optiemus. The phones will be manufactured in India, although it’s not clear where yet. Optiemus had previously partnered with BlackBerry for the distribution of BlackBerry’s DTEK50 and DTEK60 smartphones, and the current partnership is an extension of this one.
Note that BlackBerry had entered into a global licensing agreement with TCL Communications in December last year and a software licensing deal with Indonesia’s PT BB Merah Putih to license its software and services for the production of handsets for the international and Indonesian market respectively. Post these announcements, TCL launched a prototype BB phone called Mercury. Interestingly, this phone included a physical keyboard, like classic BlackBerry phones, and was preloaded with BlackBerry Messenger and Hub. It remains to be seen if Optiemus will follow a similar pattern by launching phones with physical keyboards.
In September last year, BlackBerry said it would focus on its software business after scrapping its hardware business. Partnerships like the one with Optiemus and TCL will ensure the company can do this, and continue to have its branded smartphones on the market. Additionally, by licensing its hardware brand, the company gets to continue to preload its software and services on devices it does not manufacture.