Exclusive: Interview with Swype Ceo Mike McSherry about Swype and Android


Recently we emailed some questions to , Mike McSherry CEO of Swype Inc. about their very popular application and the android platform.

Mike McSherry – Swype CEO

Mike McSherry is an experienced internet and mobile entrepreneurial executive. He was the co-founder of both Amp'd Mobile and Boost Mobile. At Amp'd Mike was the SVP Emerging Technologies and was involved in all strategy, service and platform strategies. At Boost, Mike led the product management and data services team and was a key founder in both the Australian and US launches. Prior to Boost, Mike co-founded and sold ZIVO which was the largest Interactive Agency in Australia/New Zealand and one of the largest in Asia. Mike started his technology career at Microsoft serving in multiple product management roles.


How did you come up with the idea for Swype?

Swype co-founder Randy Marsden owns a company that develops Assistive Technology for people with disabilities.  People with limited motor control can currently use head tracking gear to operate an onscreen keyboard; however, this is incredibly time consuming in that each and every letter of a word requires a pause, followed by a selection (puff of breath, blink, dwell time, etc – it depends on the person's disability).  Randy wondered if it would be possible to make a continuous eye trace over a keyboard and accurately predict the word.

Randy hooked up with Cliff Kushler to theorize on this concept.  Cliff and a small team started working full time on the algorithms and software code starting in 2002.


Cliff also co-founded/invented the T9 predictive technology which has shipped on over four billion phones.  T9 was also initially conceived as a solution for people with disabilities – easier text input for people with limited motor control!   Randy's company, Madentec, also provided the onscreen keyboard solution which has shipped on over a billion versions of Microsoft Windows.  Together, these two have unparalleled onscreen keyboard development experience.

Did you think Swype would take off in the way it did?

Cliff and Randy soon realized that Swype had much broader potential for mainstream markets.  When they began this project, the touchscreen market was limited to a small selection of tablets and PDA's.  The iPhone certainly blew open the Touch opportunity for broader mainstream phone usage.  Swype did no formal usability studies in its 7+yrs of development.  But every beta tester was averaging over 40wpm and when the beta software periodically timed out, there was 100% renewal rate amongst our beta testers.  We knew it was well loved by our limited control group.


Samsung was the very first OEM licensee for T9 technology back in the late-90's.  They were also the first for Swype…launching on the Omnia II with Verizon Wireless in December '09.  Until we launched our first product, we didn't actually know how hundreds of thousands of users would respond.  We have been very pleased with the OVERWHELMINGLY positive response from end users, OEMs and carrier partners.

So Swype is in the Guinness Book of World Records for fastest text? Are you a very fast texter?

I certainly wasn't a speed texter before Swype. But with Swype, most people can easily achieve 40+ WPM….I'm in that camp.  The fastest in our company is Cliff, I believe.  I've seen him do 65+ WPM on a phone…though that's with a stylus where there is less friction than using the pad of your finger.  He's even faster on tablets.


What are you going to do with future versions of Swype?

We're taking into account end user feedback and suggestions provided by our OEM and carrier partners, blogs, and our own website forum.  These suggestions will be taken on a case by case basis. We continue to grow and scale in more releases by supporting more OS platforms (currently we support Android, WinMo, Symbian, WinTablet, some proprietary OS), more languages, and some advanced product features.


I joined the beta and love it, when is the next version coming?

Glad you're loving the beta version of Swype!  We will periodically be releasing updated beta software to the market every few months.  Register via our website and we'll inform you of future releases.

Does Swype work on all versions of Android?


Yes, Swype will run on all versions of Android (1.5-2.1, etc). Some key features of Swype only work on our OEM preload versions, which is why OEM licensing is our preferred business model (see video "How to Correct Words" http://swypeinc.com/tips-tricks.html) . We also find that the keyboard is the most widely used application on a phone. Therefore doing extensive device testing against all the keyboard usage on a device is quite helpful in debugging and ensuring a clean end user experience.

Swype is on the Cliq XT, Samsung Moment II, Mytouch 3G as the stock keyboard right? Will it appear on more Android Phones? What Android Phones or Manufactures are you working to get Swype on?

Yes on those device launches – we've launched phones with Samsung, Motorola, HTC.  We've also launched on two WinMo devices – Samsung Omnia II and HTC HD2.  At CTIA last month, Samsung announced us on the Samsung Galaxy S and Motorola announced us on the i1.  We have to follow our OEM and carrier partner lead on when they want to announce new devices.  We are working on many other Android projects for our existing and new OEM partners.   Verizon and T-mobile have been great advocates for Swype….expect to see us on offer by more carriers globally in the next few months.


I was unaware that Swype is also available on Tablets, what has it been on so far or what will be able to see it on in the future?

Yes, Swype runs brilliantly on tablets.  We have it working on both Windows 7 and Android tablets.  Swype for Tablet hasn't hit the market just yet. Again, our OEM partners will lead with any announcements in this area.

What else do you plan to implement Swype on besides mobile phones and tablets?

We have been approached about Swype implementations for in-car displays, kiosks, military / industrial implementations, TV's and game controllers via remote controls, etc.  We think *any* screen – be it touch or remote control based –  potentially benefits from Swype keyboard input.

Many of our partners love the vision that someone can go from their TV to their smart appliance, their phone, tablet, car, etc and use the same input interface across all devices. From a consistency and efficiency perspective, it makes sense that this is the way things are moving.

Android phone users really love Swype, what is your opinion on Android phones and their popularity?

We love the Android OS and devices.  It's really amazing to see the progress from the G1 only eighteen months ago to the current crop of new Android devices.  Our developers find the OS to be quite flexible and easy from a porting perspective.  We hope that Android continues to grow in popularity and functionality, as it's a great development platform.

What kind of Phone do you use?

I do a lot of testing for all our devices so I'm constantly swapping SIMs between new devices we're working on and have launched.  I have my SIM in a myTouch3g right now, but I can't wait to be able to run around in public with the Galaxy S in a few months!

What is your favourite Swpe trick?

Several favorites with swype:

swyping email addresses is super convenient (tap in email, ie: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]> – highlight the whole email string, tap the 'Swype' key.  Entire email string is now 'swypeable')

swyping phone numbers – same thing (tap in #, ie: 206.555.1212 – highlight whole #, tap the 'Swype' key. Entire phone # is now 'swypeable'…tip: go over the periods in your swype path)

a fun feature is 'Swype Art'.  In options, turn the trace path on.  This leaves the entire trace path on the screen to see what you've drawn.  Try drawing a circle to get the word circle.  Try drawing 'oval', 'arrow', 'infinity', 'parallelogram'.  Find your own creative words you can draw!! These examples are only English.  Who knows what you can do in other languages…..

We would like to thank Swype CEO Mike McSherry for taking time from his busy schedule to answer our questions.Mike has been a super supporter of the android platform and makes himself readily available to contribute to the android community and is problay a great reason why Swype is so popular today.

According to http://swypeinc.com
  • The Swype software is very tightly written with a total memory footprint of under 1 MB,
  • An application requiring from 500K – 900K (depending on options, when compiled for the Windows Mobile platform).
  • 65,000-word language database with an average size of approximately 250K.

  • It is made up of three major components:
  • Input path analyzer,
  • Word matching search engine with accompanying word database,
  • User interface – which is customizable by OEM's.

  • The algorithms used for Swype were invented by the founders, and contain unique concepts that make the software both powerful and fast.

  • The software has been developed from the ground up with an eye toward localizing it to other languages as well as porting it to other operating systems.
So that means it will run on almost any phone. Its a great product for almost anyone. I think one of the best part of Swype is the lack of skill required, you really don't need to get to close to spelling the word correctly, just along the right path. Be sloppy, be quick, and it still gets done right. Another great thing is the keyboard is not some jumbled new mess that you have to learn, its all QWERTY, nothing new, most the time you will have it memorized from your computer keyboard at home. Whenever I show Swype to someone they kind of shrug and seem skeptical, all of them are impressed but figure they will not be able to do it. I give them a chance, let them play with it and before long they want it!
Reasons why I like Swype (in no order)
  • Auto spacing – I do not have to hit the space bar between words.
  • Auto Erase – Hold the erase button and it erases the whole word, tap it and it erases one letter.
  • Its very fast, I can be pretty sloppy and it still recognizes what I want to say
  • it has full phone integration, it will type in ANY user field
  • it remembers my words, i can add them to my android dictionary or swype has its own dictionary that i can add to

I have personally used Swype and loved it, it's literally the fastest text message on a touchscreen mobile phone.

What are your favorite things about Swype and what would you like to see in future versions of Swype?

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