Apple quietly bought Dryft, a startup that develops keyboard apps — an acquisition that appears to have occurred last year — TechCrunch has learned.
The acquisition seemed to be confirmed by Randy Marsden’s LinkedIn profile, which lists him as joining Apple last September. Marsden, the chief technology officer of Dryft and also a co-founder of Swype, now leads development for Apple’s internal keyboard efforts. Whether Apple acquired Dryft for its assets or its talent in Marsden and others, we’re not exactly sure. Financial terms of the deal weren’t available.
Apple told TechCrunch that it buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and does not generally discuss its purpose or plans — which is another way of saying yes.
Dryft was a finalist in the TechCrunch Disrupt startup battlefield in 2013.
The Dryft keyboard appears on screen only when the user places their fingers on the display, a unique way of creating an on-screen keyboard. It’s essentially a keyboard for tablets that tracks your fingers’ movements. Since releasing iOS 8, Apple has allowed developers to tinker with the device’s keyboard, opening the doors to startups like Swype and SwiftKey to create custom keyboards for the iPhone.
The move was important for Apple. Customized keyboard applications were among the most popular — and highest-grossing — applications on the Google Play store. In a sense, having a customized keyboard gave Android a competitive advantage over Apple, as the company previously held the API (and many others) very close to its chest.
That changed when Apple released iOS 8, and keyboard applications quickly jumped to the top of the App Store charts as users downloaded them en masse.