UIQ goes back to Sony Ericsson

Sony Ericsson is to acquire UIQ Technology, the Swedish software company that is currently a wholly-owned subsidiary of Symbian.

UIQ Technology, which uses Symbian OS, licenses the UIQ user interface and application development platform to mobile phone vendors worldwide – and is responsible in particular for the look and feel of key Sony Ericsson phones. It features in the P990 series, the M600, and most recently the W950 Walkman phone.

Following completion of the acquisition, UIQ Technology will operate as a separate business subsidiary of Sony Ericsson under its current management team. UIQ on Symbian OS will continue to be openly available, licensed on equal terms to all its licensees.

According to Mats Lindoff, Chief Technology Officer at Sony Ericsson. “By acquiring UIQ Technology we will further invest and exploit the full potential of UIQ on Symbian OS for phone vendors, mobile operators, developers and consumers.”

There’s more to it that that, of course. The acquisition of UIQ means Sony Ericsson will own a key UI component, in much the same way as Nokia owns the Series 60 user interface for its Symbian devices.

And UIQ has found it difficult to get any other customers, despite its undoubted technical merit. So if Sony Ericsson wanted to guarantee a future for a key element of its smartphone strategy, a takeover was probably the surest move.

Following completion of the acquisition, UIQ Technology will operate as a separate business subsidiary of Sony Ericsson under its current management team. UIQ on Symbian OS will continue to be openly available, licensed on equal terms to all its licensees, though it’s unlikely that Sony Ericsson’s ownership will do much for its chances.

Meanwhile Symbian says it’s happy with the divestment. “This announcement is a positive development,” said Symbian CEO Nigel Clifford. “It will strengthen the capabilities and services available for phones based on UIQ and Symbian OS whilst allowing us to focus on the core product development of Symbian OS for the mass market.”

Ironically, UIQ is more or less coming home. The company was born out of a development project at Ericsson.