Microsoft already has one of the better mobile keyboards out there, and it sounds like it may soon own another great one. The Financial Times reports that Microsoft is entering a deal to purchase SwiftKey for around $250 million, with plans to announce the acquisition this week. Pinged for comment, Microsoft said it has "nothing to share at this time" and SwiftKey declined to comment on "rumors [and] speculation."
Microsoft may be interested in more than the keyboard
SwiftKey has been one of the most popular keyboard apps on iOS and Android. It launched on Android in 2010 and came to iOS in 2014. Around that time, SwiftKey switched from selling its app to offering in-app payments for new keyboard themes. The Financial Times suggests that SwifKey may not have been as financially successful as it hoped, which would make some sense given the spread of its main feature — a swipeable keyboard — as a default option on many phones.
While it may seem strange for Microsoft to buy a keyboard app when it already has a perfectly good one, the Financial Times makes it sound like Microsoft may be more interested in SwiftKey's research into artificial intelligence. SwiftKey recently launched an Android keyboard that uses a neural network instead of its standard algorithms when predicting words. That research — and the teams working on it — can likely be applied to a lot more than keyboards, so the SwiftKey app itself may only be one part of what Microsoft is interested in here.
At a very basic level, buying SwiftKey would still add another great app to Microsoft's roster. It's been buying up talented developers and popular apps, like Sunrise and Acompli, as part of its shift to a strategy of providing services across devices and platforms. Owning SwiftKey would give it another strong name across both platforms — particularly on Android, where Microsoft has shown a lot of interest in developing custom experiences.