Microsoft hopes to expand its influence in the mobile productivity field so it released a new predicting keyboard as an iOS app. Would it help the company tap into the popularity enjoyed by Apple thanks to its branded mobile ecosystem?
Developed in the Garage, Microsoft’s experimental projects division, the Word Flow app is now live in the U.S. App Store; European will have to wait a while longer, however.
It was earlier in April that the company offered iOS users beta sign-ups, but now it has flicked the switch for all users in the U.S.
Initially, the app was supposed to run exclusively on Microsoft’s own smartphone platform (and only on Windows Phone); it was also included in the offering for desktop users running Windows 10.
By providing next word predictions, the Word Flow app promises its users faster texting via a swipe to type input – similar to Swype and other keyboard apps.
One of the novelties introduced by Word Flow is the one-handed typing mode which opens the keyboard in the form of an arc; this allows easier typing with just a thumb. The Word Flow keyboard also permits various customizations regarding its look and feel.
In the early years of its Windows Phone operation system, Microsoft hoped to make the platform more enticing through keyboard tech, as it battled more dominant rivals that controlled the market share.
Its focus on the keyboard was mostly driven by the fact that Apple had left a gap for other developers to exploit. At first, the tech giant blocked developers from offering keyboards on iOS that were built into the system, which meant it added more advanced features at an arguably slow pace.
However, in 2014, the arrival of the iOS 8 changed the game at Cupertino, opening up to system-wide keyboards offered by outside developers. At the same time, a lot more capabilities were added to the native keyboard, like its very own next word prediction tech.
Meanwhile, Microsoft hoped to further its strategy of making a name in the mobile space by purchasing London-based keyboard maker SwiftKey in February. After spending $250 million on the acquisition, Microsoft hoped to integrate SwiftKey’s technology into Word Flow tech.
But is there a future in keyboard tech? While messaging apps have already demonstrated how they ca scale out to become their own platform (like Facebook’s Messenger, for example), it’s far less certain that productivity apps like keyboards could ever achieve such scale.
Image Source: iMore