Monday, October 4, 2010

Google Buys BlindType To Make Mobile Typing Easier

BlindType has been acquired by Google, and its technology is likely to make typing easier on Android-powered touchscreens. Google may have purchased BlindType to keep the technology from Apple -- or it could be to improve Android's weak keyboard. An analyst said better BlindType typing would make it easier to conduct mobile searches.

In the latest in a string of acquisitions, Google Relevant Products/Services has purchased a small company called BlindType. BlindType announced the acquisition on its blog Friday, but the terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Before the Google acquisition, BlindType was on a mission to become the largest touch-typing software company in the industry. BlindType sought to make its way onto most touchscreen devices and operating systems by solving the challenge of typing on sensitive touchscreens without tactile feedback.

"We are excited to announce that BlindType has been acquired by Google," the company said in a blog post. "We know that typing on your mobile Relevant Products/Services device can be a frustrating experience, which is why we've worked hard to make touch typing easier and faster than ever -- the way it should be. We're excited to join Google, and look forward to the great opportunities for mobile innovation that lie ahead."

A More Forgiving Keyboard

Google didn't announce the acquisition, but has publicly confirmed it. Some observers are speculating that Google snapped up the young company as a competitive move against Apple -- specifically, to keep Apple from buying the technology Relevant Products/Services. Others say Google needs the technology to spruce up the Android experience.

As Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, sees it, Android's keyboard is one of the weaker elements of the operating system. The BlindType acquisition, he said, is consistent with Google's quest to make it easier for people to conduct searches.

"BlindType is a company that makes it easier to type. It's more forgiving. It makes the keyboard less challenging," Sterling said. "One of the reasons why Google has worked so hard on voice search Relevant Products/Services and using the camera with Google Goggles to get information Relevant Products/Services into the handset. It's very hard for people to search queries on their mobile keyboards. Even though smartphones make it a lot easier, it's still challenging relative to PCs."

Type Without Looking

Even though an on-screen QWERTY Relevant Products/Services virtual keyboard is displayed, BlindType doesn't assume internally that the keyboard actually exists at the predefined location on the screen. Based on user input, the software guesses at the words the user is trying to write. So even if pecks at the virtual keyboard aren't quite on the letter intended, BlindType helps accommodate the user.

Essentially, BlindType lets users type anywhere on the screen and at various orientations, even diagonally. In fact, the keyboard doesn't even have to appear on the screen. Users can simply tap where the letters would be if they were displayed and the system adjusts for the user's arbitrary movements. The promised result: Faster typing and fewer spelling errors.

"The sophistication of the technology behind these keyboards is getting better, which is good for users," Sterling said. "Google may have broader plans than just the Android stack. It may be that they are looking to use the software for input mechanisms that would go to Google TV. Google may see very broad potential applications for it. I think there are multiple layers of consideration going on here, in all likelihood."

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