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UIQ staff put on notice

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270 staff at UIQ - the graphical layer left homeless by the launch of the Symbian Foundation - have been put on notice that they could lose their jobs real soon now. But Sony Ericsson is going to cover their pay for the next month or two.

The staff, most of whom are based in Sweden, were told on Wednesday that their jobs were going to be phased out - though presumably many had already guessed that to be the case. However, Sony Ericsson has agreed to fund UIQ Technology on a month-by-month basis while an alternative is sought to winding the company up.

UIQ was supposed to be the competitor to Series 60, which provides a keyboard-based interface to the Symbian OS, while UIQ focuses on pen control. Some nice handsets were produced, mainly by Sony Ericsson, and last year's endorsement by Motorola seemed to be a positive sign for the future.

But the iPhone made everyone touch-screen crazy, and Nokia started pushing S60 in that direction. UIQ responded by pushing back, introducing a version that could be keyboard controlled, but it was an uphill battle and the industry had trouble understanding why Symbian needed two different graphical interfaces.

Actually three, counting MOAP, the graphical layer used in Japan for DoCoMo's FOMA service.

The Symbian Foundation is supposed to be combining the best bits of UIQ, MOAP, and S60 into a single interface layer, but realistically, that means co-opting interesting features into the next version of S60 - leaving MOAP and UIQ developers in the cold.

UIQ Technologies could yet find a role for itself, perhaps bought up wholesale by someone interested in creating mobile applications or helping OEM's creating Symbian devices, but this announcement can only encourage the staff that can leave to do so, post haste. ®

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