Inside Business: HitchHiker's guide to the all-purpose phone

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The Independent Online
A SMALL British company is aiming to be at the forefront of the "smart phone" revolution through teaming up with one of the most innovative businesses on the West Coast of the US, writes Roger Trapp.

Suffolk-based STNC, which late last year announced a strategic alliance with The Technology Partnership, of Hertfordshire, to develop what is billed as "the internet in your pocket", last week forged a link with Tegic Communications, of Seattle, to make it easier to use telephone keypads to write text.

At the moment, STNC's HitchHiker phones provide easy access to such information as travel timetables and restaurant guides as well as users' address books and e-mail. But it believes this capability will be significantly enhanced by adding the software produced by Tegic, a company specialising in the development and marketing of text input technologies for the telecoms and computing industries.

The T9 software gets its name from the fact that it turns the nine keys found on a mobile phone into 26 - one for each letter of the alphabet - so enabling "a quick, intuitive way of entering text from a numeric keypad".

Currently, users of mobile phones seeking to write words have to go through a rather cumbersome process known as the "multi-keystroke" approach. While that will still be available, the two companies reckon that the Tegic method will prove increasingly popular. Tegic's software revolves around a library of words that are called up by a process of elimination according to the sense of the text being written.

Combining this with the features already available for the HitchHiker will mean that business people will be able to exchange and gain access to all the information they need while on the move and using only their cellular phones. Moreover, both products require only minimal amounts of power.

According to Amy Mokady, marketing director at STNC: "Tegic's T9 technology provides the best available solution to the problem of entering text from a numeric keypad. It creates a user-friendly environment for compact devices."