Just a few days after buying the global rights to the BlackBerry phone brand, Chinese company TCL has some more big news — it’s debuting its version of the BlackBerry of the future at CES 2017, which takes place in just a few short weeks. It’s a bittersweet beginning and end for BlackBerry, which on Monday, solidified its position outside the smartphone arena by announcing the opening of a new autonomous vehicle research hub in Canada. But just because BlackBerry isn’t making its signature phones anymore doesn’t mean that the smartphone itself is going anywhere.
— Steve Cistulli (@SteveCistulli) December 15, 2016
President and General Manager of TCL North America Steve Cistulli confirmed on Twitter that new BlackBerry devices will make an appearance in Las Vegas, with Cistulli calling the news “very exciting.” This actually isn’t the first time that TCL will be making BlackBerry devices (they were behind the DTEK50 and the DTEK60), and the company has also manufactured handsets on behalf of Alcatel. Still, it’ll be challenge to see whether TCL can restore BlackBerry to its former fame and ubiquity.
Of course, BlackBerry itself has noted that it’s making one last phone itself, though details remain sparse. After that last hurrah, however, BlackBerry will no longer be in the mobile game — at least, not in the same capacity it was before. Last week, the Canadian company officially made good on CEO John Chen’s promise to outsource device design, production, and marketing. Now that BlackBerry and TCL have signed a deal to work with one another, only a small number of manufacturers will be able to make BlackBerry phones.
While BlackBerry has clearly had trouble keeping up with competitors in recent years, it remains a mainstay in a number of industries across the U.S. and Europe, specifically those that value the physical keyboard, the email-centric functionality, and perhaps, a bit of the professional nostalgia that has always accompanied this handset.
So here’s looking at you, TCL. CES ought to be a good time.