TCL signs an exclusive deal to build BlackBerry-branded phones

BlackBerry announced the major global partner in its shift toward a solely software and service company today, and no surprise, it’s TCL. The Chinese hardware maker behind the Alcatel brand has already done a lot of heavy lifting for BlackBerry, as the designer and manufacturer behind the DTEK50 and DTEK60 handsets.

Those phones were, in essence, rebadged versions of OEMed devices, with some customized BlackBerry hardware flare, coupled with the Canadian company’s security and software offers atop an Android base. Though BlackBerry reportedly played a key role in their redesign.

Under this deal, TCL will build and distribute BlackBerry-branded devices globally, while BlackBerry provides the security, apps and customer support. The deal is the first of its kind for the BlackBerry, though the language surround the announcement implies that it won’t be the last – though other manufacturers likely won’t have access to the same sort of direct branding as TCL in most of the world, likely limiting the name to software suites and security.

Interestingly, the semi-exclusive deal does open possibilities in a key part of BlackBerry’s market. It doesn’t apply to India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Indonesia, which are some of the company’s biggest markets — and where the company has already been inking deals.

The deal keeps the BlackBerry brand connected to hardware, if only in name, maintaining the company’s presence on the market, though it’s hard not to note the shades of the upcoming HMD relaunch of the Nokia name.