BlackBerry signs first licensing deal for its version of android


BlackBerry Ltd. took another step in its efforts to use its backlog of smartphone technology to make money — without having to manufacture phones itself.

The company licensed its specialized version of Alphabet Inc.’s Android software to Chinese contract manufacturer Yangzhou New Telecom Science & Technology Co., known as NTD. Four carriers from Asia, Africa and Latin America, which BlackBerry declined to name, have already signed up to buy NTD devices with the BlackBerry software.

BlackBerry stopped making its own phones last year and began licensing its technology and brand to other companies. Up to this point, those deals have included BlackBerry’s hardware patents, some of which go back to the nascent days of the smartphone era. This deal shows there is demand for the company’s version of the Android software on its own, said Alex Thurber, head of mobility solutions division for the Waterloo, Ontario-based company.

“Until you’ve actually got a deal with ink on the paper it’s all that, it’s just talk,” Thurber said. “I’m excited that we now have partners committed.”

Licensing is a key part of Chief Executive Officer John Chen’s plan to generate as much revenue as possible from BlackBerry’s roster of software and hardware patents. Investors are waiting to see whether that revenue increases fast enough to let BlackBerry post profits on a regular basis.