John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Seven Key Designers of BlackBerry 10 Left the Company in January

The Astonishing Tribe (TAT) has decamped BlackBerry.

Earlier this year, seven members of the Swedish design house acquired by the smartphone maker to help develop BlackBerry 10, left it to found a new design group called Topp. The seven — James Haliburton, Anders Larsson, Roger Andersson Reimer, Anton Boman, Michael Winberg, Oscar Olivestedt and Marcus Eriksson — played key roles in developing BlackBerry’s next-generation OS, leading core framework and visual design, and stewarding product management for UI frameworks.

But as BlackBerry 10 headed toward an ill-starred launch plagued by delays, those seven TAT members began thinking about leaving and building a new venture of their own, sources said.

By late 2012, they settled on an exit strategy, and Topp was established in January of this year, with the seven founders leaving BlackBerry to join it as they wrapped up their respective commitments to BlackBerry 10’s launch between January and March.*

“As a point of pride, the key guys in BB10 all stuck around until the product shipped,” Topp co-founder and CEO James Haliburton, formerly TAT innovation director and UX program manager at BlackBerry, told AllThingsD. “We are grateful for the time at both BB and TAT, the people we worked with were truly amazing, but it was time for us to take on new challenges.”

Haliburton would not say whether BlackBerry’s declining fortunes played a role in his decision. But his departure from BlackBerry, along with those of his six colleagues, certainly isn’t good news for the foundering smartphone pioneer. Losing good talent never is. And TAT, the boutique user-interface design outfit behind the original Android interface and a host of other impressive concept UIs, was certainly that. But, given BlackBerry’s current circumstances, it’s hard to imagine how they could have retained TAT’s fleeing members, who clearly have big things planned for Topp.

“Collectively, our team has been involved in designing four platforms, including the original Android platform for Google and BlackBerry 10,” Haliburton said. “We’re continuing to design and prototype for emerging experiences and platforms. This is not just mobile, but also connected home, automotive, the Internet of things, and more.”

BlackBerry did not respond to a request for comment.

* In leaving BlackBerry, Topp’s founders followed a trail blazed by Hampus Jakobsson, another TAT member, who fled BlackBerry last August.

Correction: An earlier version of this post described the seven founders of TOPP as founding members of TAT. They were not.

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