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Microsoft Puts 'Word Flow' Back in Spotlight with SwiftKey Buy

Microsoft has acquired SwiftKey, a London-based provider of touch-based keyboard technology for Android and iOS mobile devices.

The terms of the deal, which Microsoft announced on Wednesday, were not disclosed. However, the Financial Times estimated its value at $250 million, according to a Seeking Alpha article.

Microsoft said it plans to integrate SwiftKey's technology into its Word Flow solution for Windows. Microsoft talked about its Word Flow solution back in 2014 as a Windows Phone 8.1 feature. Word Flow, like SwiftKey, is designed to speed up the keyboard texting process on mobile devices.

However, besides getting a brief mention at Microsoft's Build 2014 developer conference, Word Flow hasn't had much of a high profile.

SwiftKey, founded in 2008, has more than 150 employees and offices in San Francisco and Seoul. It first launched its app on the Android platform in 2010, followed by iOS in 2014. The company will continue to provide its free apps for Android and iOS devices after the acquisition, according to a blog post by SwiftKey company founders.

No other details were provided in that announcement. Organizational changes weren't described.

SwiftKey claims that the use of its applications has "saved an estimated 10 trillion keystrokes across 100 different languages, which adds up to over 100,000 years of reclaimed typing time." SwiftKey apps are used by "more than 300 million Android and iOS devices," according to Microsoft's announcement.

The founders of SwiftKey devised a solution that uses machine learning to anticipate what users will type, making it faster to complete messages on mobile devices. This system is said to improve with use because it "learns" from its users.

SwiftKey apps support swiping letters on touch screens, instead of tapping them, to more quickly compose messages. Users get a choice of themed keyboards in different color schemes. SwiftKey apps support two languages at a time and have an auto-correct capability. The solution will predict and suggest which emoticons a user might want to include in a message. User profiles will sync across different devices.

One possible improvement to come with Microsoft's acquisition might be on the installation side. Reporter Paul Thurrott described setting up a SwiftKey app on an iOS device as involving eight steps.

The SwiftKey acquisition is yet another in Microsoft's recent buying streak. In December, Microsoft bought Big Data analytics startup Metanautix, but that acquisition represented an exception to its recent pattern. Typically, Microsoft has been buying software companies that build light apps for Android and iOS mobile devices. Examples of those acquisitions include calendar maker Sunrise Atelier, list maker 6Wunderkinder and e-mail maker Accompli, among others.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.