Nuance is giving up on the third-party keyboard business, discontinuing its Swype Keyboard app for iOS and Android. The XDA Developers blog confirmed the news after Nuance quietly began telling customers earlier this month that it had ceased development.
“We’re sorry to leave the direct-to-consumer keyboard business, but this change is necessary to allow us to concentrate on developing our AI solutions for sale directly to businesses,” a Nuance support page says.
Swype got its start on Windows Mobile devices in 2008 before becoming a popular alternative keyboard for Android, thanks to its use of gestures that could speed up touchscreen typing. But while Nuance acquired Swype for $100 million in 2011, similar features started appearing in keyboards from Google, SwiftKey, and others. Meanwhile, Swype’s direct-to-consumer business model stagnated, relying on paid apps even as other keyboards offered a similar experience for free.
This isn’t a death knell for third-party keyboards, but it does show that building a solid typing experience and expecting consumers to pay for it is no longer enough. Instead, companies like Fleksy and Grammarly are treating their keyboards as platforms for other features, like grammar checking and built-in games. For better or worse, Swype never went down that path.