Swype on track towards install base of a billion devices say CEO

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Touchscreen keyboard firm Swype said it’s goal is to be on a billion devices and become ubiquitous across phones, tablets and even TVs, despite a stinginess on the OEM side to invest in native apps.

Speaking at the Telecom Council of Silicon Valley’s TC3 event in Mountain View on Thursday, Swype CEO Mike McSherry said the firm was “certainly on track to achieve that scale,” thanks to partnerships with both carriers and OEMs.

The keyboard currently supports 55 languages and boasts Japanese carrier NTT Docomo as a key investor, though McSherry admits Japanese is still a hard language to implement on Swype. Nevertheless, Japan is a huge part of Swype’s global strategy, with its healthy consumer market and plethora of large OEMs.

Docomo, of course, is doing its bit to make sure Swype ends up on handsets from Japanese OEMs, and is also apparently leveraging its investment in Indian carrier Tata communications to expose the app to one of the world’s largest markets.

Persuading OEMs to pay even as little as a couple of dollars is not as simple as it might sound, however, according to McSherry who noted that device makers counted every penny.

“There’s a push pull with carriers and OEMs,” he said. The carriers, McSherry claimed, wanted apps that would improve user experience on devices they had to lay out around $400 a piece for at wholesale, but with OEMs dealing with over 500 vendors per device, every cent makes a difference. “They care about pennies per device,” said McSherry, adding that the entire ecosystem was getting squeezed as a result.

“Samsung or Nokia won’t want to pay $2 per app. They pay maybe, maybe tens of cents,” he confided in the audience.

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sylvie barak