TORONTO 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 their employees.
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 markets.
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)