RIM acquires TAT, designer of user interfaces

tatResearch In Motion has acquired user interface specialist The Astonishing Tribe for an undisclosed sum, the company announced on its blog today.

TAT could be a major pickup for BlackBerry maker RIM. The company, which is based in Sweden, makes several different products for mobile device makers, and it's invested in the Android market with its “custom home screen,” called TAT Home. That offering delivers gesture navigation and 3D widgets, and according to the company, is designed to give users more control over the “look and feel of the Android home screen.”

Another product, TAT Cascades, is an XML-based UI framework designed for mobile-device vendors. According to the company, Cascades is running on “more than 470 million devices and 200 models run TAT technology.” Moreover, TAT claims that its “technology is behind the UI in more than 15 percent of all mobile phones and more than 20 percent of all touch phones shipped” in 2010.

The company also has some concept design ideas that it's working on, including a 3D offering that allows users to “look around” apps on a mobile device (see video below). It also has a presence in the automotive industry.

So what exactly does all this mean for RIM and its products? “The TAT team will be joining RIM and bringing their talent to the BlackBerry PlayBook and smartphone platforms,” RIM Chief Technology Officer David Yach noted in a blog post announcing the acquisition. He didn't elaborate, though, on how TAT's wares might be integrated into RIM's products, nor did he indicate whether TAT will continue to supply its services to other vendors.

The Playbook, RIM's entry into the hot tablet market, is due in the first quarter of 2011.

In response to a request for further comment, RIM said only that it is not announcing any specific product plans at the moment and that TAT's workers will remain as a group, in their current location, becoming part of RIM's global software development team.

The maker of the popular BlackBerry devices has been busy acquiring other companies this year. In April, it acquired QNX to “enhance the user experience between smartphones and in-vehicle audio and infotainment systems.” In August, it acquired Cellmania to improve its App World offering. At the beginning of September, it bought Documents to Go maker Data Viz.



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