RIM snaps up UI firm The Astonishing Tribe

Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) purchased Swedish user interface design company The Astonishing Tribe, bolstering the BlackBerry maker's smartphone design team.

Click here for a video of The Astonishing Tribe’s concept user interface.RIM said in a company blog post that TAT's designers will work on RIM's PlayBook tablet as well as its smartphone platform. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

TAT designed the UI behind the G1, Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) first Android smartphone. The company also has worked with  Motorola (NYSE:MOT), Samsung, Sony Ericsson and others on UI design projects. Further, TAT collaborated with Synaptics, Texas Instruments, Immersion, and The Alloy on a concept phone in late 2009 called the Fuse, which used several different input methods.

The TAT acquisition is the latest in a string of UI-focused purchases for RIM. The company purchased Torch Mobile in August of 2009 to improve its mobile browser (BlackBerry 6 features a new webKit-based browser). The company also bought QNX in April for $200 million. QNX's software runs the PlayBook. RIM has indicated that it plans to transition its smartphones to QNX software beginning next year, though the process likely will take many years to complete.

Analysts have praised QNX's software and RIM's stock got a lift this week after the company received an upgrade from Jefferies analyst Peter Misek. "QNX [is] better and earlier than expected: our checks indicate that the new OS provides a great browsing experience, is scalable so it can address low end and high end, is easy to port Android apps to, and is more secure, and requires less bandwidth," he wrote in a research note. "Also, the transition to QNX will be faster than expected."

For more:
- see this RIM blog post
- see this ZDNet article
- see this Engadget post

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