Blog Post

Mobile UI Firm ZenZui Gets Spun Off Microsoft’s R&D; Gets $12 Million Funding; Closed Ecosystem

Microsoft has spun off a new company, called ZenZui, which makes mobile widget aps and has placed them in a touch-screen interface. If you think that is familiar, well, Alltel launched a similar UI with widgets earlier this year (See the video below on how ZenZui has implemented the widgets UI).
The company’s research and IP was developed out of Microsoft’s R&D labs, and with this spinoff, MSFT retains a minority share. The Seattle-based company has also raised $12 million from investors Oak Investment Partners and Hunt Ventures. Eric Hertz, who has worked for AT&T Wireless and other mobile companies, joined as CEO in January.
Right concept: It is time there is innovation and development in mobile UI. But the implementation idea by ZenZui: atrocious, if the early indicators from the company are true. Instead of trying to open up the mobile UI and deck, this is a typical Microsoft-closed-ecosystem that only the software giant can dream up. The official business goal of ZenZui is primarily to help sites monetize their content by making it easier for people to access that content from cell phones…that of course no one disagrees with.
The ZenZui UI, which users will be able to download for free later this year, users can pick and choose out of a fixed number of widgets, and for content and services companies to be in that widget ecosystem, they would need to have a business and technology deal with the company, reports PCWorld.
Also, ZenZui has a highly proprietary nature of its technology, says the story. Some potential partners might also object to the extent to which ZenZui maintains control of all data passing through the service. All tiles must be written using ZenZui’s proprietary markup language and all tile content must be synchronized through ZenZui’s servers using ZenZui’s synchronization architecture.
Anyway, the company is hoping it will get distribution on carriers deck, and get a share of revenues, whether subscription or ad-supported. For now it will launch a Windows Mobile-based service, but will expand to support J2ME, and Brew.
More details in the release.