Ina Fried

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Swype Gets First Update Since Selling to Nuance

Nuance on Wednesday is showing off the first update to Swype since paying more than $100 million to acquire the virtual keyboard company last year.

The new software adds, among other things, the ability to predict what word comes next, in addition to the one being entered. That’s a feature popular on other software keyboard products, such as SwiftKey.

Under the hood, Nuance is merging Swype’s code base with Nuance’s algorithms for making sense of typed, written and spoken words. Nuance also had its own Swype-like product, known as Trace, which can still be found on other devices, including Samsung’s Galaxy S III.

The two companies were using separate means of predicting text. Nuance had been focused on statistical models of language, while Swype was investing a lot in models that adapt to individual users. The new software combines both approaches.

“Those two things together create a living, learning keyboard that gets better the more you use it,” said Nuance VP of Mobile Products Aaron Sheedy. With a user’s approval it can even learn based on past use by scanning email, tweets and text messages.

The new software will be available as a beta starting Wednesday, and will also be available to device makers to start preloading on their phones.

With the new version, customers who have Swype preloaded on their phones can now try out the latest betas. In the past, the betas worked on Android phones that didn’t already have Swype preloaded.

The company also sees many more opportunities down the road.

“We have a group here who has been working on text input for almost 20 years,” Sheedy said. “That’s quite a unique group of engineers and linguists.”


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik