Research In Motion has bought Swedish design company The Astonishing Tribe (TAT) as the BlackBerry maker seeks to enhance the look and functionality of its screens ahead of the launch of its PlayBook tablet.
TAT is renowned for their innovative mobile user interface (UI) designs and has a long history of working with mobile and embedded technology, RIM's chief technology officer, David Yach, wrote on a company blog announcing the acquisition.
RIM's BlackBerry smartphones, traditionally targeted at corporate users, have struggled to impress consumers in comparison to more stylish devices such as Apple's iPhone.
We're excited that the TAT team will be joining RIM and bringing their talent to the BlackBerry PlayBook and smartphone platforms, Yach said.
Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM provided no financial details on the deal but it said the purchase price was not material to the company.
RIM plans to launch its 7-inch PlayBook tablet, one of a growing number of competitors to Apple's iPad, in the first quarter of 2011.
TAT's Cascade UI framework powers in-car infotainment systems as well as 20 percent of all smartphones shipped in 2010, according to its website.
It currently supports developers and device manufacturers for Google's Android operating system, and counts Motorola, Sony Ericsson and Samsung among its customers.
Of course we will honor our current agreements and service our existing customers and have taken all the necessary steps to keep the two commitments separated, TAT co-founder Paul Blomdahl said on the company's website.
RIM has bought a number of companies to fill particular needs in recent years. They include QNX Software, which will power the PlayBook's operating system, and Torch Mobile, which enabled the Canadian company to upgrade its web browser, long derided as slow in comparison to rivals.
The BlackBerry Torch, RIM's first phone to use the WebKit-based browser, was named in honor of the company.
(Reporting by Alastair Sharp; editing by Peter Galloway)