When you think Palm, you think Graffiti. But Palm’s long-standing association with its home-grown character recognition software is about to take a dramatic turn. PalmSource, the operating system subsidiary of Palm, Inc., announced today that future versions of Palm OS will not contain Graffiti. Rather, they will incorporate a modified version of Communication Intelligence Corporation’s Jot handwriting recognition software, something it’s calling Graffiti 2 powered by Jot.
The impetus for the switch appears to be legal rather than technical. In April 1997, Xerox sued Palm, claiming that Graffiti was essentially derived from its patented Unistrokes technology. Unistrokes, or “Unistrokes for Computerized Interpretation of Handwriting”, as it is referred to in Xerox’s 1997 patent, is a system of text-entry using single-stroke symbols for computerized recognition of handwritten text. However, it appeared Palm dodged a legal bullet when, in June 2000, a federal judge dismissed the case. But in late 2001, Xerox won a reversal in the U.S. Court of Appeals and the lawsuit was back on, and it’s been hanging over Palm’s head ever since.
CIC’s Jot recognition software has long been found on competing handhelds running on the Pocket PC platform. As with Graffiti, its alphabet is based on block characters. However, unlike Graffiti, some characters require two rather than one stroke. Therefore, Jot characters more closely resemble common block letters than Graffiti characters. According to Marlene Somsak, Palm’s VP of Communications, this will reduce the learning curve. “For new Palm users, Graffiti 2 powered by Jot is more intuitive and natural than Graffiti,” Ms. Somsak told Brighthand.
Hints to Graffiti’s demise began to surface last year, when Palm OS licensee Handspring said it was dropping Graffiti in favor of integrated thumb-type keyboards for its Treo organizers. And Palm itself announced in November that, for the first time, it was bundling Communication Intelligence Corporation’s Jot handwriting recognition software with its upcoming Tungsten W handheld.
According to Lee Williams, VP of Engineering for PalmSource, the move to Graffiti 2 will allow Palm Platform licensees the choice of foregoing the silk-screened “hard” Graffiti area, since Jot can accept input from anywhere on a device’s touchscreen.
According to Mr. Williams, Graffiti 2 powered by Jot will be a modified version of the current version of Jot found on CIC’s website. It will be included in future releases of the Palm operating system, including the upcoming Palm OS 4.1.2 and Palm OS 5.2, and will be included in the Palm Developer’s Kit (PDK) as part of a unified API.