Ina Fried

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SwiftKey Among iOS Developers on Pins and Needles for Monday’s Keynote

Apple CEO Tim Cook’s suggestion that Apple is ready to open up the iPhone has developers champing at the bit.

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Cook said at D11 that the company does plan on opening up more opportunities for developers, but didn’t go into specifics.

“I think you will see us open up more in the future,” he said. “But not to the degree that we put the customer at risk of having a bad experience.”

That leaves a lot of open questions as to what access Apple might grant developers and when. Details could come at Monday’s Worldwide Developer Conference, where Apple is set to show off the next version of its iOS operating system.

Among those eagerly hoping for good news is TouchType, the maker of the popular SwiftKey software keyboard for Android phones.

Currently, Apple doesn’t allow developers access to create custom keyboards. But Cook’s comments are giving the company reason for optimism.

“It’s great they are thinking in that way,” TouchType marketing chief Joe Braidwood said in a telephone interview. “That’s very different from the message we would have gotten a year ago.”

Indeed, SwiftKey started with the hope of convincing device makers to include their software from the get-go. It released its software as an Android download mainly to show what was possible.

“We thought this was just a great test bed” to show phone makers that the technology works, Braidwood said.

The fact that it has become a top download — along with Nuance’s Swype — shows the interest smartphone owners have in a better typing experience. While Android has lots of options, Apple has thus far limited customers to its keyboard experience which offers a much-maligned autocorrect, but not advanced options such as tracing the word you want to write or predicting what word you might want to type next.

“The most obvious API for them to open is the keyboard, because it is the greatest weakness,” Braidwood said. “The keyboard is the thing that needs work more than anything on that platform.”

As for what else Apple might open up, Urban Airship CEO Scott Kveton speculated it could be access to the lock screen, more features for PassBook or even an expansion of the push notification system — something critical for his company.

“We also hope Apple will update its push notification service since it has been far too long since that went live,” Kveton said in an email interview. “It would be great if the enhancements included rich multimedia or cross-device synching of messages.”

For his part, Braidwood said SwiftKey is eager to work on iOS if the opportunity arises, declined to say if SwiftKey has talked directly to Apple about working together.

As for how long it would take to bring SwiftKey to iOS, Braidwood said it would depend on the specifics of what Apple announces. But he hoped it could be done in a matter of a few months.

“If and when the keyboard is liberalized, we would jump on it with the greatest speed we could bring to the table,” he said.


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