A group of software designers responsible for the BlackBerry 10 user interface have left the floundering smartphone manufacturer to set up their own company.

BlackBerry 10
Seven lead designers behind BlackBerry 10 create own company, as £3bn buyout is questioned. (Reuters)

In a move not dissimilar to the Jolla smartphone rising from the ashes of Nokia's abandoned Meego software, the seven Sweden-based designers have left BlackBerry to set up Topp, a digital design studio focusing on the mobile, automotive, consumer electronics, home appliances and retail sectors.

The designers previously worked at The Astonishing Tribe (Tat), which was acquired by BlackBerry in 2010 to help develop the BB10 operating system, integrating Tat's Cascades framework and tools into BlackBerry's software development kit, or SDK.

The seven founding members of Topp describe themselves as formerly "key players" at BlackBerry, leading various design and technology divisions within the company. Speaking to IBTimes UK, Topp co-founder and CEO James Haliburton said their roles at BlackBerry included "leading the core framework design, leading the visual design in Sweden, and heading up project management for UI frameworks."

Previous clients of the Topp founders include: Samsung, Google, Sony, Ericsson, Nokia, Disney, Motorola, Spotify and PayPal. Their work at Google helped bring about the first commercially-available Android smartphone, the G1, in 2008.

Point of pride

Haliburton said the decision to leave BlackBerry was "a point of pride, the key guys in BB10 all stuck around until the product shipped. We are grateful for the time at both BB and Tat...but it was time for us to take on new challenges."

It's no surprise to see BlackBerry staff leave the struggling company to create their own startups, just as layoffs at Nokia helped contribute to what is now a thriving tech startup hub in its home city of Helsinki; the Jolla smartphone and its Sailfish operating system was developed by former Nokia staff.

BlackBerry breakup a possibility

As BlackBerry sees key members of its design team depart, the company's future remains uncertain, with questions beginning to surround the £3 billion buyout offer made by Fairfax Financial Holdings.

An anonymous Bloomberg source "with knowledge of the matter" said the Canadian holdings firm may be unable to line up funding or partners for the buyout, which was announced in September.

If the deal falls through, further Bloomberg sources claim SAP, Cisco Systems and Samsung Electronics were all recently approached by BlackBerry advisors, having indicated they would only be interested in buying parts of the company, such as its patent portfolio or enterprise network.

Sachin Shah, a strategist at Albert Fried & Co., told Bloomberg: "If you break up the company, you're going to get more than the company is worth right now...breaking it up sounds more appetising for all involved."