After launching a commercial transliteration widget for PC users, Tachyon Technologies owned Quillpad has now developed one for mobiles. The mobile application, created in association with handset manufacturers, will be rolled out in Hindi to begin with. NASDAQ listed Rediff owns 26 percent in Tachyon.
The application needs to be downloaded onto the phone from Quillpad’s site. A trial version is available here (size: 358 Kb). It creates an alias of the text message inbox on your mobile with the addition of a text input mechanism, which works with a mobile’s keypad. First, it is being launched only in Hindi but support for transliteration in ten Indic languages – Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, Punjabi and Nepali will soon be available.
The word can be typed out phonetically, the user has to pick the correct option amongst the words suggested by scrolling down or pressing * depending upon the handset. Similar to, but simpler than, Quillpad’s online widget which offers different words of the combination of letters when you press the tab key on a keyboard. But on the mobile, it might be a tad painful with a small screen and if in a hurry. If you skip selecting the right word, you’d have to keep pressing * till it wound through the entire gamut of permutations and returned to that word.
Still, we’d say this is a side-effect of flexibility offered by the application – it gets rid of shifting between halants ( also known as virama or a diacritic), matras and other typing rules that new users may find difficult. Users can also switch to English by using the hash key (#) on the keypad. You can try a demo of the mobile transliteration editor here.
The application encodes messages in Unicode and can accommodate up to 70 Unicode characters per message.
The application does not work with touchscreen phones and requires a physical keypad to support it, which is a pity considering the flurry of touchscreen phones being launched off late.
Is There A Need?
The target user is the English literate but bi or trilingual user who prefers her informal communication in native languages. Here we see a problem in uptake – what is stopping such a user from continuing to type out SMSs in English which read as Hindi? As we have seen on online social networks and chat clients, users are comfortable with using a freestyle, Hinglish vocabulary and have adapted. Does having the right font matter anymore?
An acute problem with the application is that the recipient of the text message will not be able to view the SMS unless he also has the Quillpad application or his mobile can support language fonts. There are some mobiles which do support Hindi, but other language fonts are not yet enabled. This lack of support in recipient phones could potentially be a fatal setback.
Quillpad is offering a trial version for free, which will last for ten text messages. Thereafter, the user will have to buy an activation key for Rs. 149 online. This is substantially lower than that of Quillpad’s online transliteration tool, which is priced at Rs. 5000 for one language that lasts 3 months and Rs. 10,000 for three languages and the same validity period. Primarily because there is a difference in the target userbase – the online tool is for B2C firms, e-commerce sites while the mobile application is for the lay user. But will the lay user wish to pay at all? Currently, developers are offering various other mobile applications for free and the fact that the application requires GPRS for downloading is also a setback.
The company has conducted market research and believes there is a “willingness to pay among individual consumers for a product like this”. Unless pushed by the telcos for a subsidised price or embedded within handsets, the application might find the going tough.