Google has released its own software for Japanese text entry, called simply “Google 日本語入力” / “Google Japanese Input” in direct competition to Microsoft’s ubiquitous IME.
Initial reports indicate the software is very good indeed, although as usual Google insists on calling it a “beta.”
By far the most common method for Japanese text entry is Microsoft’s IME, integrated into the Windows operating system (though sometimes not very well).
This takes the form of typing in the alphabetic phonetic equivalent of the Japanese (known as “romaji,” roman characters), and then pressing space in order to convert the text entered into the system’s best guess at the characters and word divisions intended.
Frequently this process is not very good and requires some coaxing and training to provide commonly used vocabulary.
However, Google’s version, although adhering to the same basic IME pattern, seems to have substantially improved capabilities, particularly for otaku usage:
“Pantsuja” gives an autosuggestion of “pantsu ja nai kara hazukashikunai mon,” the famous catchphrase of Strike Witches.
“Kidouse-“ gives four Gundam titles and even Nadesico.
Most probably its vocabulary is either linked to or based on Google’s search databases, quite an improvement over Microsoft IME’s stale and unhelpful default dictionary.
Google claims it will not be sending home details of the actual text typed, although it admits other usage data is sent and frankly Google’s credibility is not high in these matters – gathering vast amounts of identifiable usage data is part of their business model.
Expect Google Chinese Input to eventually inform the Party of any unpatriotic text inputted, or at the very least omit anything subversive from its dictionaries.
With complete search dominance, a strong browser in Chrome, some dubious remote applications and lately even an operating system, it seems Google is indeed throwing down the gauntlet to Microsoft…