Exclusive: An interview with Hampus Jakobsson, Co-founder of TAT

We have been lucky enough to be granted an e-mail interview with Hampus Jakobsson, the co-founder of TAT, one of the most influential smartphone user interface design houses in recent years, and were able to ask the questions we always wanted to.

Read the interview below:

Q: Thank you for agreeing to an email interview. For a company with such a high profile in the smartphone world surprisingly little is known about your projects and involvement in OS development, but of course your demo videos are legendary. May I start by asking, as much as possible, which phones and operating systems bear your mark at present, and if there is any one adopted user interface feature you are particularly proud of.

A: Our technology is shipping in every eighth phone sold worldwide, and soon 500 million units sold, from Samsung, Motorola, Sony Ericsson and pre-embedded in Symbian (S60). We also did the UI design for AndroidOS. Some of the devices I am proud of are Sprint Instinct from Samsung, as well as Wave, from Motorola they did a great job with the KRAVE. There are a lot of funky devices in Korea and China as well, but they are not too visible outside, as well as some versions of the Omnia2 sport our stuff.

Q: What does your company do exactly. Your Cascades product usually appears in your videos – what is this exactly?

A: We provide a UI platform, Cascades, which can be embedded in OSs or put in an app an then run "on top". The videos you see are mostly implementations of UIs running on real hardware using Cascades. These are done to show off what the platform can do, but also to inspire companies to not just to copycat UIs.

More after the break.

Q: Does TAT ever deal with the consumer directly?

A: Not often.

Q: While your demos’ are spectacular, many commentators have expressed the feeling that the eye candy gets in the way of efficient usage of the device, with the most widely lauded smartphone user interface, the one on the iPhone, being little more than a grid of icons. How do you respond to this accusation?

A: I think an interface needs to be both easy to use as well as aesthetically pleasing, and the iPhone is great at being simple and smooth, but not very personal. Apple did a great job to improve the worlds of UIs by introducing a new paradigm, finger touch, and when breaking the norm I would as well take a step back in complexity (which Apple did). But I truly believe that the next wave of devices will be more personal. Compare it with clothes or cars – why don’t they all look the same – simple, streamlined, and so focused on delivering the core functionality that they lack personality. As the mobile matures there will be more expressive UIs.

Q: Your company was said to have some involvement in Windows Mobile development, including the scrapped Windows Mobile 7. Is there anything you can reveal about that, and did you have any involvement in Windows Phone 7?

A: Sorry, can’t tell you anything there.

Q: Lastly, what is your definition of a good user interface, and how do you rank the current smartphone user interfaces on the market at present? Is anyone doing it very wrong, or anyone doing it right?

A: I think Apple is setting the standard in forms of clutter removal, and I think Android gives the possibility for more personalization, such as themes and widgets. Widgets will probably be an important thing in the years to come as it allows a glanceability, entry point to further interactions as well as personalization.

Intriguingly, when asked if there was any particular demo he wished to highlight, Hampus said:

A: Check our YouTube channel and pick some you like. I think Velvet might be interesting to WM-people as we see a lot of WM7-tablets upcoming…

Is there any burning questions you wished we have asked? Let us know below.