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Apple after handwriting recognition coder for Mac OS X

Fuel for tablet mac rumour fire?

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Apple is still keen to recruit a full-time software engineer who's up for "advancing gesture and handwriting recognition on Mac OS X" and who believes "using a stylus and a tablet is the way to interact with computers", Reg Hardware has learned. The job posting is sure to further kindle claims the company is developing a tablet Mac.

The post of Handwriting Recognition Engineer is based in Apple's Cupertino HQ. The Mac maker is looking for someone "expert in the area of pattern recognition [and] with an excellent understanding of handwriting recognition issues".

Beyond the customary skills the company looks for in a software developer, it also wants candidates to be "well versed in the area of handwriting recognition", to possess "knowledge of... neural network algorithms", and have "experience with Unix and familiarity with Mac OS X".

Apple posted such a vacancy on its website in August 2005. That ad is still there, but on February 10, 2006, it appeared on situations vacant site Monster.com.

Mac OS X already has a gesture and handwriting recognition system, Inkwell, which comes into play when you connect a graphics tablet to your Mac. Apple's recent move to file an application for a patent that covers virtual input systems would seem to suggest that, whether the patent's granted or not, it's working on a tablet driven not necessarily by a stylus but by on-screen representations of keyboards, mice, clickwheels and so on.

Such a UI overlay doesn't negate the need for a tablet, and perhaps we shouldn't assume Apple might be working on only one tablet-oriented UI solution. A good handwriting recognition system is surely a much better text-entry system than a virtual keyboard, particularly if you imagine people typing with two or more of their fingers - it feels more real.

Provided, of course, it's done properly and is ready for primetime, as Apple's Newton OS handwriting recognition system originally wasn't.

Rumours that Apple is working on a tablet Mac have been ocurring since at least 2002, but were given more weight in 2004 when the company filed for a European design trademark for a device that was pretty much how you'd expect a tablet Mac to look.

One Mac fan got so fed up of waiting for Apple to come up with the goods, he figured out how to make and sell one himself. ®

Thanks to reader Lawrence for the tip.

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