What happened

Of all the surprising twists and turns of 2020, here's one I bet no one saw coming: BlackBerry (NYSE:BB), best known for the smartphone that was ubiquitous until Apple unveiled the iPhone, is cool again.

Shares of BlackBerry closed up 14% on Friday and finished up 35% on the week after the company announced a high-profile alliance with Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN).

So what

BlackBerry, the Canadian company once known as Research In Motion, has mostly flown under the radar since abandoning the handheld device market and instead focusing on software and security. But that all changed on Dec. 1 when the company announced it was teaming with Amazon Web Services to develop a platform that helps automakers collect and analyze data from vehicle sensors.

Illustration of a secure cloud.

Image source: Getty Images.

The idea is interesting, and BlackBerry's specialty from its phone-making days in creating scalable, secure software that can operate on a number of platforms makes it a good fit for this challenge. The goal is to unify a huge array of automakers and suppliers so varying sensors from around the vehicle are able to work together.

But as Motley Fool analyst Jim Gillies noted, somewhat in jest, on the Market Foolery podcast earlier in the week, the excitement around the partnership has seemingly reminded some investors that BlackBerry is still around. I think there is some truth to that: The deal with Amazon seems to have caused some investors to take a fresh look at BlackBerry for perhaps the first time in a while. And by and large, they are intrigued with what they see.

Now what

BlackBerry's deal with Amazon solidifies its credentials as a software and security company. If it can get this new partnership right, there is a steady stream of revenue out there in vehicle automation to go along with its secure Internet of Things software offering.

This is not an expensive company, trading at less than five times sales, and BlackBerry has a market capitalization of less than $5 billion. In an increasingly connected world, the company could have an interesting second lease on life, or make an attractive takeover target. That got BlackBerry back on the radar screens of investors this week.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.