(Adds analysts' comments, stock price move, background)
By Euan Rocha
TORONTO, June 18 BlackBerry Ltd reached
a licensing deal with Amazon.com Inc on Wednesday that
will let the Canadian smartphone maker offer some 240,000
Android applications from Amazon's app store on its lineup of
BlackBerry 10 devices this fall.
The move allows the Waterloo, Ontario-based company to add a
vast array of consumer-focused apps to its devices, while at the
same time directing its own efforts toward developing enterprise
and productivity applications.
Customers who own smartphones powered by its BlackBerry 10
operating system will now be able to access popular Android apps
such as Groupon, Netflix, Pinterest, Minecraft and Candy Crush
Saga on their BlackBerry devices this fall. Google Inc
makes Android, the mobile operating system
used in more than a billion phones and tablets.
The apps will become available after the Canadian smartphone
maker rolls out the upgraded BlackBerry 10.3 operating system,
the company said.
The move is the latest by the smartphone pioneer to
streamline its focus as it attempts to reinvent itself under new
Chief Executive Officer John Chen as BlackBerry phones have lost
ground to Apple Inc's iPhone and Samsung Electronics Co
Ltd's Galaxy devices.
Analysts saw the move as a step in the right direction, but
are not sure whether it will help turn the tide for BlackBerry.
"While this will widen the BB10 app ecosystem, the consumer
smartphone environment still remains challenging," Wells Fargo
analyst Maynard Um said in a note to clients.
Um views the announcement as a positive for BlackBerry, but
said "whether it stems consumer churn remains to be seen."
Chen wants to remain a competitor in the smartphone segment,
but is focused on making BlackBerry a dominant force in
machine-to-machine communications. The company's QNX software
already is a mainstay in the automotive industry, powering
electronic and other systems in a wide range of cars.
BlackBerry already works with hundreds of large enterprise
clients, including corporations and government agencies, to
manage and secure mobile devices on their internal networks.
Chen intends to build on those ties and BlackBerry's
security credentials to let these enterprise clients build and
customize in-house corporate and productivity applications for
Last week, BlackBerry announced a deal with EnStream LP, a
mobile payments joint venture owned by Canada's three large
wireless carriers, to provide a secure platform for transactions
between banks and consumers.
These moves, coupled with others made by Chen, including a
much cheered move to forge an alliance with device manufacturing
giant Foxconn Technology Co, have made analysts more
optimistic about BlackBerry's prospects.
Following the announcement of the Amazon deal on Wednesday,
BGC Partners upgraded its rating on BlackBerry shares to "buy"
from "sell," and lifted its price target on the stock.
BGC analyst Colin Gillis credited the upgrade to Chen's
moves to cut costs, forge partnerships and focus in core
Shares of BlackBerry, which reports quarterly results early
on Thursday, jumped 3 percent close at $8.29 on the Nasdaq.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum and Jan Paschal)