Palm inks handwriting recognition software deal

PalmSource Inc., the operating system division of Palm Inc., announced on Monday that it will discontinue its Graffiti handwriting recognition software in favour of Jot technology from Communication Intelligence Corp. (CIC) based in Redwood Shores, Calif.

The Jot software will be renamed Graffiti 2 and will be embedded in current and future versions of the OS.

According to PalmSource officials Jot emulates more natural printing input. While in Grafitti a user has to write an upside down L to depict a ‘t’ in Jot the same letter is written as a plain ‘t’. “Users don’t have to read a manual,” said Michael Higashi, director of OS Marketing for Palmsource in Sunnyvale, Calif.

However, the punctuation is more of an effort. “You have to do an upstroke instead of a dot,” said Higashi.

While the new software may make most users happier, the same may not be said for retailers who still have plenty of the older Grafitti-based Palm OS devices on their shelves. If the Jot software is so much easier why wouldn’t a buyer hold off purchasing a device until the new software is incorporated into Palm-based models?

“Manufacturers choose when they want to roll it out,” said Marlene Somsak, from Palm Solutions Group.

Somsak said Palm SG was not sure whether or not the company would roll out Grafitti 2-based devices as a new model or do what she called a “soft roll,” upgrading the current models with new handwriting software.

As for so-called power users who have invested the time in learning Grafitti, Higashi said the transition is as easy as going from a notebook keyboard to a desktop keyboard.

Palm SG intends to have Grafitti 2 products in this calendar year but Somsak would not give a more precise date. One industry analyst called Jot an “interim solution.”

“CIC is not bad and will serve until the migration to all keyboard handhelds is complete,” said David Hayden, principle analyst with MobileWeek in Palo Alto, Calif.

According to Hayden, consumers are buying in large numbers handhelds with keyboards. Hayden cited Handspring which had two handheld models one with a keyboard and one with Grafitti. “Over 90 per cent of the buyers chose the model with the keyboard,” Hayden said.

Besides the handwriting recognition, the Jot technology will recognize English and European characters that are based on the Roman alphabet. Jot will sell separately text entry utilities, WordComplete, and QuickNotes.

Some industry analysts also point to a law suit filed by Xerox Corp. over copyright infringement for its handwriting recognition software technology.

Somsak said the Xerox lawsuit was a consideration but once the company began studying alternatives it realized the Jot technology was superior and PalmSource will stay with it no matter the outcome of the lawsuit.