BlackBerry has confirmed that it is in talks to license its secure Android operating system to third-party smartphone makers. The Canadian company is calling its software BlackBerry Secure, and it will offer all the features that are currently exclusive to its own devices.
Right now, there are two reasons to choose a BlackBerry smartphone over any other: a physical keyboard, and BlackBerry software — which is said to be more secure than rival versions of Android. But BlackBerry plans to take away one of those selling points by licensing its software to third-party smartphone manufacturers.
“We have a number of different contracts that we are working on right now,” BlackBerry senior vice president Alex Thurber told The Economic Times. “We expect some to be announced soon.”
BlackBerry already has an agreement with Optiemus for the India market, which allows the smartphone maker to launch its own devices with BlackBerry security features. Optiemus also has a 10-year brand licensing deal with BlackBerry, which gives it exclusive rights to design, manufacture, and sell handsets carrying the BlackBerry name in India and neighboring markets.
BlackBerry has a similar deal with BB Merah Putih for Indonesia, while Chinese company TCL Communication has the rights to manufacture BlackBerry-branded devices for the rest of the world — including the U.S. and Europe. TCL has already produced a number of DTEK devices, as well as the KEYone, BlackBerry’s best Android-powered handset so far.
In the future, BlackBerry plans to license its security technologies in other markets, including wearables, televisions, and even medical devices. “We have already started talking to a couple of medical manufacturers,” Thurber added. “There is an amazing amount of products that run Android and since we are able to make a very secure Android, we think there are a lot of opportunities. We have a very specific plan and we are working to that plan.”
Could BlackBerry be shooting itself in the foot by allowing its software to be distributed on third-party devices? The move could certainly impact sales of BlackBerry-branded phones, but every licensing deal it signs means more revenue.