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Introducing Swype: How We'll All Be Typing in a Few Years

SwypeImagine being able to type 50 words a minute using your iPhone. I'm watching a demo on UStream.tv of the technology -- basically you drag your finger across the stream and Swype figures out what you wanted to type. 

The inventor, Cliff Kushler has done it again - he previously developed the same T9 technology that many people use to compose text messages today. Over the years he has put together a patent portfolio whose breadth and completeness compares favorably to MPEG-LA, the secret behind the iTunes empire. 

For example, to type the word "exclusive", you would start on the letter 'e' and drag down the keyboard to 'x' then right to 'c' then all the way right to "l" and so on. Even though you are dragging over all sorts of letters, Swype interprets your gestures and evaluates all combinations of the letters you've touched to produce the word you wanted to type. Swype estimates that most people can reach 40wpm after only two days' use.

This is the kind of technology that Apple Computer, Microsoft Surface and other companies need to usher in the next generation of applications. While iPhone sales have been robust, even a 70wpm typer like myself finds it incredibly tough to use Apple's haptic technology to compose a simple email.

After all, the personal computer only took off after the keyboard started to feel like a real typewriter. This level of comfort brought word processing and later, desktop publishing to the masses. For the iPhone (and hopefully later this month, the so-called "iPad" internet notebook computer) to reach the next level, it must be quick and easy to enter text. Of many technologies I've seen recently, only Swype satisfies those conditions.

The applications don't stop there. An outdoor advertising company like Clear Channel or JC Decaux could include Swype technology in its ads as a kind of "virtual keyboard" that would let passers-by answer questions or enter their email address. Of course, there are hygiene issues, but there are clever ways of handling even the most rabid germophobes.

Hey - haptics already gives us faucets that turn on automagically -- why couldn't Swype give us a virtual keyboard that lets us gesture to specify the water temperature?

If you manufacture tablet computers or haptic devices, I encourage you to consider including Swype on your device. It might be the one app that gives your hardware the "wow" factor you've been looking for.

The Browser Wars Continue: Introducing Google Chrome


Today is going to mark the introduction of a brand-new browser -- not from Microsoft or Mozilla but in a surprise move, from Google. Blogoscoped has images of the new browser, named Google Chrome, here.

Google used a comic book approach to describe why they felt it was necessary to launch a new browser. This approach made it easier to digest otherwise complicated concepts. The PR-friendly answer to "why create a new browser" is that thanks to worldwide usage of Google's search engines and tools, Google could see how people's enjoyment of the internet was being stifled by old-fashioned browsers that were built primarily to read HTML web pages. Google chose to use open source principles to create a browser from the ground up based on what people do today: watching and uploading videos, chatting with each other, or playing games.

Yet as I read through Google's explanation, it appears that Google will launch an enormous initiative in order to court developer interest in Google Chrome for the desktop and Google Android for the mobile. Google will treat the web browser as an operating system on which other programs, widgets and applets can run.

Similar to the functionality of Gmail and Google Docs, Apple promises to help people keep all of their information in synch via Mobile Me. Based on what I saw of Mobile Me, I predicted that Apple will use the iPhone/iTunes ecosystem to create a new browser-based netbook operating system platform which will run on new netbook computers as reported by NPR and others.

I've argued that Apple will drop the prices of its hardware in order to build up its developer base for its Safari platform. Google Android/Chrome will be directly competitive with Apple's iPhone platform by offering web developers an integrated environment where one can build apps for traditional computers and mobile phones at the same time. Google's Virtual Machine approach addresses memory leak issues that many users of the iPhone are only now starting to encounter after downloading multiple applications.

I believe it is only a matter of time before Google attempts to make Google Chrome the default operating system for a new generation of sub-$500 notebook computers that will never be touched by Microsoft Windows but instead will run Gmail, Google Docs and so much more.

Interestingly, Google Chrome imitated Apple in choosing WebKit, not Mozilla, as the foundation for its browser. It wouldn't surprise me to see Google bidding against Apple for stewardship of WebKit's community and associated intellectual property, much as former Red Hat CTO Marc Ewing was able to commercialize his company's open source community. 

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