UI Holdings: A Joint, Joint Mobile Venture

You know that Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) and Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERIC  ) run a joint venture to develop and market cell phones, right? Imaginatively named Sony Ericsson, the venture isn't based in Sweden or Japan, but in London, England, under a British president.

And if you thought this operation had a split personality disorder already, it just got weirder: Sony Ericsson owns UI Holdings BV in the Netherlands, which in turn runs UIQ Technology AB -- a Swedish smartphone user interface designer. And now exactly half of UI is changing hands to American competitor Motorola (NYSE: MOT  ) .

That makes UI half American, one-quarter Swedish, one-quarter Japanese, with some Earl Grey and tulips mixed in for flavor and fragrance. Something like that, anyway. I'd hate to be the accountant tasked with figuring out this company's tax rates.

The good news is that the whole conglomerate behind the new UI Holdings wants to make its flagship product an open industry standard. Anyone can license its use, and both Motorola and Sony Ericsson already have products on the market built around this software platform.

I'm all for open standards. it brings more choice to consumers and potentially lower costs to the gadget providers. Companies that provide extended mobile services, such as Nuance Communications (Nasdaq: NUAN  ) , get a stable target platform, which simplifies their operations. Everybody wins, except maybe proprietary platform providers like Openwave (Nasdaq: OPWV  ) and Opera.

I just wish they could find a less-confusing corporate structure for this thing -- perhaps UI would be better off as a Mozilla-esque community or as a public market spinoff with no strings attached.

Phurther phone-y Phoolishness:


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