Mobile phones with touch screens quickly replaced Blackberrys and other phones with physical keyboards after the release of iPhone. Users then had the ability to change their keyboard's layout and design. Swiftkey and Swype quickly became popular alternative to keyboards because they supported swipe typing and were able to predict users' text.
In an effort to boost it's mobile efforts, Microsoft has purchased Swiftkey. The company paid $250 million for the predictive keyboard developer which it will add to its smart app suite. Mobile phones using the Windows 10 platform are not nearly as popular as those running iOS or Android but now Microsoft has found a way to encourage consumers to use its apps and services regardless of the device they are using.
Swiftkey was originally released for the Android platform because at the time iOS did not support custom keyboards. With the launch of iOS 8 in 2014, it was finally released for the iPhone and iPad. At that time Swiftkey also made the decision to make its app free which helped to set it apart from its rival Swype. The company's cofounders Jon Reynolds and Ben Medlock have stated their apps will still be available for free on iOS and Android despite Microsoft's recent acquisition of Swiftkey.
On the surface it appears that Microsoft is looking to expand its presence on the mobile platforms of its competitors. However, the company might have bought Swiftkey for its ability to learn from its users which could be quite useful in developing artificial intelligence. Apple, Google, and countless other companies have begun to invest more in AI recently and it seems that the wait for its implementation in consumer products may almost be over.
This is not the first time that Microsoft has experimented with custom keyboard apps. Windows Phone 10's keyboard, Word Flow, is currently in development for its mobile platform and there is a version in the works for iOS as well.