Nuance to Buy Virtual Keyboard-Maker Swype for $100 Million

Nuance, a voice recognition technology company, has acquired Seattle-based Swype, which is known for its very popular virtual keyboard commonly found on Android phones, according to a person close to the situation.

A source pegged the deal’s size at more than $100 million, but less that $150 million.

The company was not reachable for comment. The deal was first reported by Uncrunched, but I was able to confirm it separately.

The acquisition is expected to be announced tomorrow by Nuance, a publicly held company that has a market value of nearly $7 billion. [UPDATE: Here it is. Total price: $102.5 million.]

Swype was co-founded by Cliff Kushler, who previously worked at Tegic Communications, which is known for developing T9, the predictive-text software that is now owned by Nuance.

As touchscreen phones became more popular, the predictive texting that eliminated triple-tapping became less necessary, as new forms of input on a piece of glass became mandatory. Nuance bought the technology from AOL.

The idea was first hatched by Kushler and co-founder Randy Marsden, who developed the onscreen keyboard included in Windows. In 2008, Mike McSherry, who was the co-founder of both Amp’d Mobile and Boost Mobile, became CEO.

The company raised a $3.5 million round earlier this year from existing investors, including the venture capital arms of Samsung, Nokia and DoCoMo.

Swype has found a huge following on Android devices, and at the time of its last round was estimating that it was being shipped on half of all Android phones. It also had its sights set on the tablet market. Nuance is an obvious acquirer of the technology because of the wide swath of patents it owns in the space, but Google or another handset maker would have been an option, too.

The importance of voice and text entry became even more prominent this week after Apple unveiled Siri, a voice-activated assistant.

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