By 12 October 2011 | Categories: news


The one limitation of smartphones, which have become increasingly more powerful as portable PCs, sporting dual-core CPUs and larger amounts of memory, is that text input it still limited by the size of the screen. Even as screens grow bigger and push the boundaries of portability, text input for long documents is still best served with the use of a keyboard.

However, this month two interesting developments have already taken place that point to a future where this may no longer be the case.

The first was Apple’s announcement of its voice recognition feature, Siri on its iPhone 4S, which recognises the context of user’s voice commands and acts accordingly. Asking Siri whether one needs an umbrella, for example, prompts it to search for a weather report. This has apparently impressed many, with pundits and us, speculating that it could well be the future of navigation on mobile devices.

The second development was the recent acquisition by Nuance Communications, the makers of  Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition software, of Swype late last week for a very considerable $102.5 million (R799 million). Swype offers an alternative way of inputting text using the device’s keyboard by swiping one’s finger or stylus from one letter to the next.  

One analyst believes that this acquisition may point to the company going after a bigger piece of the mobile device pie. According to Reuters, FBR Capital Markets and Co analyst Daniel Ives believes that Nuance is bulking up on the mobile front so that they can have a bigger presence on the next-generation handsets.

Together, Siri and Nuance Communications’ acquisition may well indicate the beginning of a very exciting development, where users will be able to carry the power of a notebook or PC in a small form factor without the limitation of requiring a keyboard to create long form documents.

While netbooks, and more recently, tablets have ‘sort of’ addressed this limitation, there is still much that could be done to optimise the power contained in today’s smartphones – and both developments may well be positive steps towards that end.



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