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Why did Nuance buy Swype?

I've been following Swype for quite some time. This Seattle-based company was my pick to win Techcrunch Disrupt. +michael arrington explained why it didn't, and also that it sold to Nuance for more than $100 million: http://uncrunched.com/2011/10/06/nuance-to-acquire-swype-for-100-million/

Here's my video with the CEO and founder of Swype.

One thing that they wouldn't show me on camera, by the way, is that they had their keyboard working on both the iPhone and iPad. This is one example of a place where Steve Jobs has blocked innovation: he never wanted developers to mess with his "art." I wonder if, now that Jobs is gone, that Apple will be more open to innovations like this that mess with the core functionality of the phone?

I bet Nuance is betting on "yes." Now that Nuance's voice controls are built into iOS through the new Siri assistant, I wonder if they'll be able to convince Apple to ship Nuance into iOS too. I hope so, this is one of the things that is much better about Android than iPhones.
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59 comments
 
My only gripe with Swype was the language packs. It as a all or nothing option for any language other than english and spanish.
 
I'm actually a big fan of Swype as well. I've been consistently impressed with the quality and intuitiveness of the experience using it.
 
This is great news for the Seattle startup community, too.
 
Swipe is over rated and takes too long to get to hi.use symbols....and I hate the number layout.
 
This is big for Nuance! Great move.
 
So, I've got an Android tablet on the way now. Anyone have any thoughts on how well Swype translates to that form factor?
 
Robert, I was expecting 'Why did Nuance buy Swype'. This does nothing to explain it. Btw I have been a huge fan of Swype as well. Top class technology.
 
I would love swype on my iPhone (yes I know you can JB it to get it but I prefer not to do that). I used it when I was on my Android kick before I came back to iOS.
 
Nuance want to make Naturally Speaking for the Mac work properly first.Its one reason I did not buy an iMac. Its great on Windows but not the Mac.
 
+Apurva Chaudhary oh, sorry, I think that's pretty clear. Nuance wants to be the world's leading company of newer input methods. Now they have a menu of such input methods: voice and now Swype.
 
+Gary Walker it works pretty well, even on bigger form factors, but they could do work on making it even better. Another startup showed me an even better method of "chording" words and phrases into tablets. So, it'll be interesting to watch the competition in this area. But first Apple needs to open up to innovation, otherwise we'll be stuck with these things only on Android tablets.
 
+Robert Scoble I adopted Swype from the first day I was in the beta, today I'm not able tu use the keyboard of my iPhone, so I use only my Andoid, people didn't want to believe I cant type 3 time quicker than anybody even in bad position, even switching from french to english in one stroke in the same sentence.

I've been out of the beta for a few week, I was handicapped.

Swype is the most important innovation (for me) in the last 3/5 years.
 
The keyboard and auto-complete is my #1 gripe about the iPhone. RIM had auto-complete working seamlessly years ago, then came the iPhone roll-back when it came to keyboard usability, then the huge leap forward with the Android keyboard swipe. It's time for Apple to improve their keyboard user interface... and voice control is only usable in selected environments, so Siri is only a minor keyboard UX improvement.
 
One of the reasons I like Verizon's Blackberry Bold 9930 is that it has touchscreen for when it comes in handy, but also a solid qwerty keyboard (and enlarged from previous models).

I think voice will be more popular than swype-type actions ever will.
 
+Robert Scoble You just touched on something I'm working on writing up an essay about: the other side of "visionary" leadership. It can blind you to innovation as easily as drive it: cases in point, Apple, Sun, Oracle.
 
I think faster with small screen

Let's think about big screen :)
 
Yeah, I've always loved Swype. People ask me to text someone, I load it up, "swype" my finger a few times and the text is gone. The person stands there looking at me like "well, aren't you going to finish?" thinking that there's no way that I could have done it that fast.
 
+Gary Walker Steve Jobs looked at his device as "art" and he didn't like people messing with his art. Once you understand how he looks at the world and his devices it all makes sense. On the other hand, this did have a benefit: there was always a consistent UI on all Apple devices. Made supporting it easier and also makes developers' jobs easier (there aren't different versions of things they need to test on and support).
 
I'm no industry pro so perhaps I am just uninformed or naive but doesn't it seem strange that Apple would launch such a visible and hyped capability without having locked down control of it?
What I mean is - if Nuance tech is required for this to work then why didn't Apple buy Nuance as well as Siri?
What would Apple do now if Google moved to buy Nuance?
 
Swype was what swayed me to move from my out of date Blackberry to an Android phone. Whereas I loved the BB keyboard, Swype made my transition to a onscreen keyboard on Android easier for my "fat fingers" vs. iPhones. May have to rethink my next device if they start shipping swype on the iPhones.
 
+Andy Cameron do you have a suggestion for a keyboard layout other than QWERTY? I'd be interested to see it.
 
By the way, if you listen to the whole video, at about minute 21:00 you'll hear their vision: "to ship on billions of units." They are the ONLY startup that has ever said that to me. Most are happy to get to a million. Foodspotting, for instance, told me the other night that they are over the moon to have just passed 1.5 million users and now are planning on how to get to 10 million (I love Foodspotting too, so this isn't a knock on them) but the folks who started Swype have very big dreams. Hope this helps them realize those dreams.
 
+Andy Cameron and +Don Shappelle you really need to watch the video. I asked them this exact question about whether we'd ever see Qwerty go away. Their answer is, in short, "no."
JoPa Mi
 
Swype is a bit of a learning curve, but only for about a day. Once you get used to it, and actually take the 2 min to watch the tutorials, it is way faster, and much more accurate than auto correct.

I would be lost without swype now.
 
Robert I don't have the ability to use sound presently or else I would. I like the short answer!!! I'm pro-QWERTY. Haters gonna hate Swypers gonna swype.
 
swype was what made me trade in my iphone for a droid. can't live without it. was the first app i installed on my tablet too...
 
+Robert Scoble That's appropriate given the level at which they're focused. This isn't a typical app, it's more akin to an OS component than anything else. Of course, even for a keyboard, that's a REALLY ambitious goal. I wish them much luck and if they keep doing what they're doing, I suspect they'll get there.
JoPa Mi
 
learning a new keyboard layout would be the equivalent of learning a new language, except for our fingers. We are so used to where they keys SHOULD be that undoing that would be a huge hassle. Although, I would be willing if there was a really good reason to change it.
 
I was never a fan of it, personally. I don't want to retrain myself on how to type on a phone. I'd rather see a more intelligent auto-correct feature. The iPhone for one is god-awful in that regard, so I guess it all depends on the device, too.
 
Nokia tried change with keyboard on the 3650 a circle of buttons and other models. Sadly none lastest too long. :)
 
Everybody I've demonstrated Swype to has been amazed how easy it is to use. It's improved my texting speed no end!
 
+Chris Wilkinson I also find its auto-correction to be head and shoulders above everything else I've tried. It's fast, efficient, and leverages patterns I already have from decades of touch-typing.
 
I adore Swype. It makes it much easier to text quickly, and I make fewer mistakes with it.
 
It's not perfect, but it's so much easier Swyping.
 
+Robert Scoble Regarding "art." I think you're dead-on there. Every time someone has asked me to explain what I mean when discussing a UI, I've pointed them to the Mac OS HIG. It's an education in UI design in itself.

The problem with work as art, however, is that art can preference things that don't align well with how people actually use the product. Look at Apple's pointing devices over the years. Yes, they have produced the best pointing device I've ever used (Magic Trackpad), but they've also produced the two worst mice in the history of computing (G3 hockey puck, original Mighty Mouse).

Jobs' vision was also responsible for the introduction of the 4-level grayscale NeXT systems...because color wasn't part of his "vision" of the product.

Don't get me wrong. I think "vision" is one of the most irreplaceable qualities in a business leader, but it's also a two-edged sword. It can give you the necessary continuity to bring an amazingly great thing to market, but it can give you a certain tunnel vision about your passions. Nothing scares me more than someone who believes wholeheartedly that he's right. :)
 
As long as Swype can be improved now that Nuance has control, that's all that matters to me. Swype has changed the way i text forever.
 
+Robert Scoble I like Swiftkey X better than Swype. The predictions of the current and the next word are very accurate and sometimes I just have to type the first letter and it already offers me a pretty accurate list.
 
I thought the whole idea of Nuance was to make the entering via keyboard obeselete?
 
I love Swype!! I often wish my iPad had it
 
I can't use my Thunderbolt without Swype. I'm so attached to it each time the current beta expires, I'm stuck. And it always seems to happen when I'm travelling or hiking and don't have access to a reliable internet connection to redownload it.

Swype is one of 5-10 apps I think are worth paying for.
 
This is definitely one area iOS fails compared to Android. Swype isn't the only good input method, there's also Swiftkey (my favorite) and Dragon T9, which I suppose will be merged with Swype now (or did they license them from the beginning).

Anyways, i hope to see it on iOS soon. Competition makes everyone better, and these types of artificial handcuffs make no sense to me.
 
Nuance already has a pretty nice swipe-able keyboard FlexT9. Now that they've got Swype, I wonder which one is going away.
 
Why did u apologise to TIM COOK???
 
I can type MUCH faster on my DroidX than on an Ipad. I do hope that Swype/Nuance will give the user access to edit the dictionary along with the ability to turn off learning for numbers. How many times have I tried to enter a time such as 6:30 only to get 655p out some other previously memorized number sequence?
 
"most of my users know this, but the 'qwerty' keyboard was..."

Yeah, that's scoble, right again

and we're pround to be one of 'your' users

no, really

"-"

ps. really.
 
Choosing default keyboards for the entire phone plays up one of Android's strengths -- customization. I too, love Swype, although on my Nexus One it started getting everything dramatically wrong a few months ago, so I switched to Swiftkey when it was offered for free on the Amazon App Store.

Swype is still my keyboard of choice for Spanish. It's amazing how it gets accents, etc. Spanish speakers cannot believe how perfectly I can text in my third language, and how fast!
 
Swype was the reason that I opted for a Galaxy S/Android over an iPhone a while back. I hated the fact that Apple wouldn't let me have it on iOS, and I still view it as a major mistake.

That said, it's been frustrating being stuck with some of the problems of the prior version, because you can't install the newer/better Beta of Swype on Samsung's phones that came preinstalled with Swype (b/c you can't uninstall the old version). #lesigh

Assuming they fixed a few of the issues with the annoying "...covered up by another word..." pop-ups (that don't actually allow you to delete the unwanted word from the dictionary right there), the newer Swype should especially rock on 7" tablets in portrait mode.
 
Swype is awesome, works great on my Streak 7
 
Swype, more than anything else, is what keeps me on Android rather than iOS for my personal use. Since all my work kit is Apple, I really hope this gets officially ported across soon and Apple open up their platform for it.
 
What they don't tell you is that this is but just their first step in mobile space.
 
latest update and huge increase in size of app is the end of the road for me with Swype. Hopefully Nuance will do something powerful with it and release a fully baked Market offering soon.
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