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Apple fellow to lead RIM's new user experience team

With increased competition from future iPhone technologies looming, Research in Motion has hired a veteran Apple interface director to lead a new team of designers tasked with improving the user experience of the company's BlackBerry handsets.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based smartphone maker last month acquired the services of Don Lindsay from Microsoft, tasking him with crafting a new VP role at the company that will govern a team of engineers charged with advancing the BlackBerry experience.

Lindsay is perhaps best known — and most sought — for his near 9-year tenure at Apple between July 1994 and May 2003.

As Design Director of the Mac OS User Experience Group, he led what was called the "Mac OS X interface concept project" and directed the design team responsible for the user experience of Mac OS X 10.0 "Cheetah" through Mac OS X 10.3 "Panther," which included the company's first-generation of iLife digital lifestyle applications.

In October of 2003, Lindsay was lured away from the Mac maker by Microsoft for a key software architecture position overseeing future Windows user experience explorations. Many of his key contributions wound up in Windows Vista components, according to his LinkedIn page, such as the AERO Glass interface and SKU/hardware tiering strategy, Glass Colorization, Flip3D, Alt-tab, window animations, and the Windows Calendar.

Coincidently or not, Lindsay's arrival at RIM came during the same month that Apple held a press conference to show off many of the features planned for its next generation iPhone software.

The BlackBerry maker is currently enthralled in a heated market share battle with Apple in the smartphone sector and recently reported what many industry watchers consider to be an extraordinary quarter given the current economic conditions.

For the three-month period ending February 28th, the company reported shipping a record 7.8 million BlackBerry handsets and an 84 percent increase in sales to $3.46 billion, sending its shares surging some 23 percent. Apple won't report iPhone sales for its last quarter (ended March) until later this month, though its quarter isn't a direct compare with RIM's, which included the holiday month of December.

Word of Lindsay's appointment at RIM was first reported by mocoNews alongside a somewhat dubious claim that his experience with early versions of Mac OS X made him one of the "mastermind behind the iPhone user interface."