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Text Msgs U Train

Sending text messages via SMS may be a popular activity for some, but for others typing the alphabet on a numeric keypad is somewhat of a challenge.

Tegic Communications, subsidiary of AOL, is aiming to make text input easier with a new product announcement and a new partnership that will add speech and handwriting recognition to mobile devices.

Tegic today rolled out the latest edition of its T9 predictive text input software. Version 7.3 comes with "thousands of words, emoticons, and punctuation," and also has a predictive type function that helps users complete words as they type them.

It also "learns" new words, so when a user enters a word that T9 doesn't recognize, it gets added to the list of recognized words.

The new version will make it easier for users to switch phones without the need to manually re-enter text input preferences or user-added words. They can now upload preferences to their mobile carriers' Web sites, which negates the need to re-train new mobile devices on the same network.

T9 is built into mobile devices, such as smartphones by the handset manufacturer. According to AOL Wireless spokesperson Erin Gifford at this time, T9 is for mobile devices and consumer electronics only.

"However, there is certainly a potential application for the mobile AIM and ICQ services, for example speaking instant messages rather than typing them," Gifford told internetnews.com.

Tegic also provided a glimpse into the future of T9 today, as well.

The next version of T9 is now set to benefit for an agreement announced today by Tegic to license speech and handwriting technologies from ScanSoft.

"By combining our individual expertise, the resulting solution has the potential to enable next-generation text input products for mobile devices," Gifford said.

Gifford described the new T9 product announcements as the beginning of a series of next-generation predictive interfaces.

"Tegic has always been a leader in terms of making data services, such as SMS, easier to use. Speech and handwriting input represent an early niche market," Gifford explained. "But in this next evolution, we are well positioned to simplify this new generation of data services."

The ScanSoft technology is expected to be integrated into the T9 Mobile Suite, which will be available to handset makers in 2006.