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Moto buys into UIQ

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Motorola has taken a 50 per cent stake in UIQ, the phone user interface company spun out of Symbian last year.

Moto takes a 50 per stake with Sony Ericsson, which took UIQ off Symbian's hands last year, the other half.

"The intention is not to run it as a 50-50 joint venture," said outbound Sony Ericsson boss Miles Flint today. A bullish UIQ said today it will also seek further partners. The company has grown from 142 staff in February to over 350 today, with new offices in Budapest and London.

UIQ is a bit more than just a pen UI these days - it's evolved into a "one handed" penless UI that offers a strong competitor to Nokia.

Motorola's Alain Mutricy, senior VP of platform technology, said: "We will not be replacing our other platforms... We will add UIQ into our portfolio into specific strategic segments - particularly multimedia - and geographical areas."

Today's news also consummates an on-off relationship that's lasted most of the noughties.

Motorola and Sony Ericsson came close to announcing a joint venture in 2002, we revealed exclusively at the time, but the plan was abandoned as Motorola went gung-ho for Linux. That proved to be a fruitless and frustrating wrong turn for the American company, so here it is.

We asked why the not-joint venture was considered a good idea today, but not quite in 2002. They didn't really answer the question.

UIQ sprung from the Mobile Communications Applications research lab at the old Ericsson, and the lab became part of Symbian in 1998, a few months after Symbian itself came together. Motorola was one of the first to develop a phone based on UIQ, in the now notorious "Odin" project, a joint venture with Psion.

See UI wars ‘tore Symbian apart’ – Nokia - our retrospective from 2004.

Motorola subsequently developed some of the first 3G handsets using UIQ for Hutchison, in 2003, but abandoned its Symbian stake the following year.

The company returned to the platform with its Z8 phone this year. We can safely assume many more will follow.

"Nothing here is confrontational or attacking," said Flint. Right. ®

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