Several years ago, BlackBerry acquired The Astonishing Tribe (TAT), a team that was well known in the mobile industry for designing gorgeous user interfaces. Less than two years later, as the team was hard at work on the BlackBerry 10 UI, TAT founder Hampus Jakobsson jumped ship to start a new company — and now it would appear a large portion of the group is following in his footsteps now that BlackBerry is on the verge of a major transformation. CrackBerry reports that seven of the original TAT members have left BlackBerry to found TOPP, a new design studio that hopes to “craft new products and breathe life into innovative ideas through design, prototyping, and technology,” according to the company’s website. More information is available on the website, but there is no indication yet of exactly what the next project will be for these nomadic designers.
Hampus Jakobsson, user interface guru and founder of The Astonishing Tribe, announced on Tuesday that he has left Research In Motion (RIMM) to pursue other projects. RIM acquired TAT in late 2010 and BlackBerry fans grew giddy at the possibility of modern UI designs hitting their beloved smartphones. Nothing of note ever came to BlackBerry 7, but from what we’ve seen of BlackBerry 10 thus far, TAT’s influence is clearly present. Jakobsson apparently had no interest in seeing his hard work hit the market, though, as the executive has confirmed on Twitter that he left RIM.
Updated with RIM’s statement after last paragraph. More →
BGR has learned that Research In Motion’s head of BlackBerry software may have left the company. Suresh Periyalwar, Senior Vice President of Handheld Software, had been with RIM since April 2001 when he joined as Director of Software Development. He came to the company from Nortel, where he managed CDMA-related development for more than five years. Periyalwar was promoted to SVP at RIM three years ago in May 2008 according to his LinkedIn profile, which still has him listed as a RIM employee. BGR has also learned from a trusted source that several additional key executives have been planning to leave on their own accord. (more
RIM’s stock is down more than 60% from its 12-month high of $70.54, and there is a great deal of unrest at the company’s headquarters in Waterloo, Ontario. BGR exclusively published an open letter from an anonymous senior executive at RIM late last month, which pleaded for the company’s top management to make several strategic changes in order to regain momentum and mind share in the smartphone market. A later expose, also published by BGR, painted a troubling picture of the smartphone vendor that once revolutionized the industry.
If Periyalwar did in fact leave the company as multiple sources have informed BGR, it might not bode well for RIM’s next-generation smartphones. The departure of RIM’s SVP of Handheld Software just ahead of the company’s transition to QNX could imply that the executive did not have confidence in RIM’s brand new platform. On the other hand, Periyalwar may have been pushed out in favor of fresh leadership in its software division ahead of the company’s QNX smartphone launches. RIM declined to confirm or deny the executive’s departure when reached for comment by BGR. Periyalwar could not be reached for comment.
RIM might have the enterprise market squarely in its sights with the upcoming BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, but the sleek device is hardly all business. At Mobile World Congress 2011 in Barcelona, recent RIM acquisition The Astonishing Tribe was on hand to show off two applications built to demo some of the QNX-powered PlayBook’s capabilities. And as can only be expected from TAT-born apps, they’re stunning. The first, Scrapbook, is a scrapbooking app with a playful look and some terrific 3D UI effects. The second, Aura, allows users to control the weather and features some nifty accelerometer-controlled physics. Hit the break for two video demonstrations. More →
In a note to investors Monday, Barclays Capital analyst Jeff Kvaal restated his “overweight” rating and set an $85 target for shares of RIM’s stock. Kvaal thinks the company will report a solid third quarter, and he believes current demand for the BlackBerry Torch to be “solid.” AT&T’s decision to drop the BlackBerry Torch to $99 last month played a big role in bolstering sales, the analyst believes, and he raised his Q3 estimates from 13.9 million units to 14.1 million as a result. Moving on to 2011, Kvaal sees RIM launching several handsets in the first half of 2011, including an update to the Curve 8900, a “Touch Bold” and a third version of the BlackBerry Storm. Sales of RIM’s first QNX-based tablet are projected to be quite low, however, and QNX-based handsets are not expected until the second half of 2011 at the earliest. Kvaal estimates BlackBerry PlayBook sales of 3 million units in 2011, and Gleacher & Co. analyst Mark McKechnie estimates PlayBook sales of only 1.8 million units through February 2012. More →
RIM’s upcoming QNX-based OS is about to get a swift kick in the UI, as the company announced its acquisition of The Astonishing Tribe on Thursday. Also known as TAT, the team is renowned for its stunning UI work that often includes unique concepts that never manage to find their way to production devices. While TAT has done a great deal of work across several markets including automotive and consumer electronics, mobile platforms user experiences is where they shine and as any BlackBerry user will tell you, RIM needs a lot of help in that department. Well, BlackBerry fans… help has most definitely arrived because TAT is as good as it gets. We can’t wait to see what this talented team of seasoned veterans can do for the PlayBook and for RIM’s future phones. More →
We’re really not sure that this one has any weight to it all, but word is buzzing around the Symbian blogosphere in response to an assertion that S60 may be looking to TAT to help it modernize the UI. The rumors began in a forum and so far there hasn’t been much if any evidence to support this theory, but it would certainly be in line with the direction that S60 needs to go. Not that TAT’s Kastor UI is anything overly special, but this would go a long way in showing us that Nokia does in fact know that the look and movement of S60 is a bit antiquated. If the Kastor UI does make it to the S60 platform in one way or another, expect heavy customization as the UI shown in the screenshots above (and in this video) are hardly reminiscent of Nokia’s look or feel at all. It shows a great deal of potential though; Kastor’s smooth movement and focus on movement and transitions would go a great way to modernize the user’s experience with S60. We have heard that a lot of work has been going into this area of the user experience lately, but only time will tell. Note that the video in the post linked below is a mash up of the core Kastor UI and parts of TAT’s customized UI framework called Cascades. It is unclear if the rumor encompasses just Kastor or Cascades as well but we assume since the article makes no mention of Cascades, it was included by mistake.