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RIM buys design company to pretty up struggling BlackBerry brand

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Despite the launch of BlackBerry 6.0, Research in Motion is still losing customers to iPhone and Android. As we reported yesterday, the smartphone maker announced that it has purchased The Astonishing Tribe (TAT), a company that specializes in mobile and tablet user interface designs. RIM will integrate the TAT team directly into its operations.

“We’re excited that the TAT team will be joining RIM and bringing their talent to the BlackBerry PlayBook and smartphone platforms,” said RIM on its blog.

The Astonishing Tribe has worked with Fjitsu, Motorola, Samsung, and Google and claims that its technology is used in more than 470 million devices around the world. In 2010, 15 percent of all phones and 20 percent of all touch phones use its technology.

“We had already thought that the [Blackberry-owned] QNX OS was excellent, but it could be even better after TAT incorporates some of its innovative 3D-like designs. TAT’s prior work on Android interfaces has been well received by reviewers and consumers,” Jefferies wrote in a research note today, reports the WSJ.

RIM’s smartphone marketshare is falling, which makes the acquisition of companies like TAT vital to the future of the brand. Google’s Android OS, Apple’s iPhone, and Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 7 are seen as the fresh alternative to BlackBerry devices, which have traditionally been more business focused. In a recent Nielsen survey, only 11-15 percent of phone owners desired a BlackBerry, about half of the percent that favored Android or iPhone.

Below we’ve embedded a cool video by TAT. It shows some concepts of what smartphones and screens may be like several years from now.

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