Nuance Builds A Competitor To Swype Called Trace


You can literally trace the roots of this story back to the beginning.

Nuance, which makes the very popular T9 text input for cellphones, has developed a new product for touchscreens that lets you drag your finger around the keyboard to spell out words and sentences. It’s very similar to a product called Swype, which has been installed on 20 phones in over 50 countries.

And, the story returns full circle once you learn that Seattle-based Swype was started by some of the original founders of T9.

Nuance’s new product is called T9 Trace, and as Wireless Week explains it, it is very similar to Swype.

It would be hard for Nuance to ignore Swype since it launched last year. In that time, the start-up has been preloaded on 20 devices in 50 countries, including the Samsung Galaxy S line-up, the Motorola (NYSE: MOT) Droid and the HTC’s T-Mobile G2. The software supports more than 40 languages including English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Malay, Russian, Finnish, Portuguese, Romanian, Icelandic, Chinese and Japanese. It has raised $6.6 million in funding from such strategic companies as Nokia (NYSE: NOK) Growth Partners, Samsung Ventures and DOCOMO Capital.

Nuance is counting on setting itself apart from Swype by leveraging its existing customer base and packaging Trace with the T9 offering. Right now, Swype is more of a standalone feature that forces users to switch between it and a standard keyboard. Nuance claims to have a better experience because it’s integrated into the same keyboard. Likewise, Nuance says it works with 80 languages.

It’s such a small world, however, and the similarity of these products can be found right down at the roots. Burlington, Mass.-based Nuance purchased the T9 technology from AOL (NYSE: AOL), which bought it from a Seattle startup called Tegic Communications, where Cliff Kushler, developed T9. Now Kushler is the co-founder of Swype.

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