Software

RIP, Swype: Thanks for all the sor--speec--speedy texting

Pioneering gesture keyboard killed off by owner Nuance

By Andrew Orlowski

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One of the best-loved mobile apps of the past decade, Swype, has been given the bullet. Parent company Nuance confirmed it will no longer develop the letter-tracing keyboard, which will disappear from the Apple and Google app stores.

Swype was developed by one of the inventors of T9 predictive text, Cliff Kushner, and was first demonstrated in 2008. It first appeared on Windows Mobile, but versions emerged on many other platforms including Symbian – our own Bill Ray raved about it here. It followed the industry-wide rush for better touchscreen text entry after the launch of the iPhone. Both Nokia and Samsung were early investors.

Swype proved ideal for the screens of the time, which are cramped by today’s standards. Kushner claimed users could reach 40-50wpm within a day. The text prediction was remarkably accurate in trying situations: such as moving or drunk users. But the technology was copied into other keyboards, and swiping was Swype’s only real USP. The value was evident when a student won the world speed texting challenge using a Windows Phone; Microsoft said he made use of the keyboard's Swipe-Like WordFlow gestures.

Speech recognition giant Nuance swallowed the company for $102.5m in 2011, displacing its own Swype-alike, Flext9. Nuance had previously acquired Tegic Communications, licensee of Kushner's T9.

Nuance would subsequently bundle Swype with its own Dragon voice dictation system. The company confirmed the news earlier this month in a discreet support note, spotted at XDA.

“We’re sorry to leave the direct-to-consumer keyboard business, but this change is necessary to allow us to concentrate on developing our AI solutions for sale directly to businesses,” wrote Nuance.

AI solutions? Hmm. ®

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