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Mobile-software developer UIQ files for bankruptcy

Left without a viable business model after the launch of the Symbian Foundation, UIQ has been shut down by its owners, Sony Ericsson and Motorola
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

The mobile-software company UIQ has filed for bankruptcy, following the decision by its last remaining customer to stop using its platform.

Motorola and Sony Ericsson, the joint owners of UIQ via a Dutch holding company, decided at a board meeting on 29 December to pull the plug on the company. The UIQ platform is being integrated, along with Series 60, into the Symbian Foundation's royalty-free, open-source platform, and Motorola announced in November that it would drop UIQ in order to focus on rival systems, including Android, Windows Mobile and P2K.

UIQ's Symbian-based platform has been widely used in Sony Ericsson and Motorola handsets over the past six years, with UIQ-toting models ranging from low-end consumer phones to Sony Ericsson's P-range smartphones.

Johan Sandberg, UIQ's erstwhile chief executive, told ZDNet UK on Monday that the bankruptcy filing took place in a Swedish regional court on 30 December. "There is not likely to be a buyer, although that's up to the bankruptcy receiver, who has now taken over management of the company," Sandberg said.

Sandberg added that, as soon as the formation of the Symbian Foundation was announced in June, the main business of UIQ disappeared.

"We were a company living on royalty fees from our intellectual property," Sandberg said. "As the IP became free of charge, Sony Ericsson and Motorola decided to work with the Symbian Foundation, not UIQ. There was no business for us anymore. We continued working on existing projects for a while into November but, at the end of November, the customer that we were working for, Motorola, decided to not continue those projects. Effectively, we didn't have anything to do any more."

Sandberg said Sony Ericsson had avoided putting UIQ into receivership at that time, instead deciding to continue funding the company to give it "a couple of months' chance to look for any alternatives to restructure or to sell part of the company, and to give people a chance to look for new jobs". However, as UIQ effectively had no operation for two months and no new business plan has been worked out, the company is now "in effect, insolvent", he added. Swedish law requires insolvent companies to file for bankruptcy.

According to Sandberg, 230 UIQ employees will now lose their jobs. This figure reflects the company's drop in headcount since June, just prior to the announcement of the Symbian Foundation, when UIQ had 380 employees.

"Many people have already found new positions, but there are still 230 people here," Sandberg said. "Some of them already have new jobs lined up, and there has been a lot of activity looking for jobs, and lots of companies interviewing our staff. But, of course, it's been Christmas and it's a pretty slow industry right now, so it's taking time for people to get new jobs."

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