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Chinese electronics company TCL is putting its market clout behind the design, manufacture and marketing of a new portfolio of BlackBerry smartphones/AFP

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China’s TCL out to revive BlackBerry smartphones

Chinese electronics company TCL is putting its market clout behind the design, manufacture and marketing of a new portfolio of BlackBerry smartphones/AFP

LAS VEGAS, United States, Jan 5 – Chinese electronics company TCL Corporation was at CES on Wednesday with a plan to revive BlackBerry handsets knocked from the mobile phone throne by Apple and Google.

TCL is putting its market clout behind the design, manufacture and marketing of a new portfolio of BlackBerry smartphones, trusting that its solid position in the market will renew faith in the brand.

“What sells a product is confidence in your underlying capabilities and that there is a future,” said Steve Cistulli, general manager for TCL Communication Technology Holdings Limited of North America.

He noted the success TCL has had building its Alcatel brand and expressed optimism the company could put the brakes on BlackBerry’s downward slide this year.

BlackBerry in Canada will remain in control of software and security on smartphones, while TCL will handle creating handsets powered by Google Android software, according to company executives who provided a glimpse at the coming model.

“The final compilation of software is controlled by BlackBerry,” said TCL research and development head Alain Lejeune, who was credited as the architect of the deal with BlackBerry.

“We want to keep it that way on the security side. The fact that the last mile is coming from Canada, which is outside of China, is a strong value for us.”

Behind closed doors at a suite in a Las Vegas hotel, TCL provided a glimpse at a new BlackBerry smartphone that will be the first brought to market under the alliance.

Pricing and other details about the new BlackBerry will be revealed a the coming Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona, and it would be the first in a portfolio of smartphones, according to Cistulli.

TCL planned to focus on businesses, rekindling BlackBerry’s strong reputation for productivity and security.

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TCL saw the BlackBerry deal as a way to take on smartphone heavyweights Apple and Samsung with a brand already known in the market, Cistulli said.

“We could see there was still a very strong core of people passionate about BlackBerry,” TCL chief executive Nicolas Zibell told AFP.

Market research also showed a pent-up demand by businesses for an option to smartphones from Apple or Samsung, which have been striving to gain ground in workplaces, according to TCL executives.

“Arresting the drop of a brand is incredibly challenging; like trying to catch a knife,” Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart told AFP at a briefing by TCL in a suite on the Las Vegas strip.

“But, they are focusing on the best possible market by going after enterprises who may be interested in the BlackBerry reputation for security.”

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