The guys at Nuance have been teasing me with stories about where they're taking the hugely popular T9 predictive-text technology next.

One of the most interesting ideas - now on offer as XT9 - is to add the the ability not only to predict based on the letters already entered, but to also look at possibilities that we might perhaps call 'adjacent'. For example, if you hit a key twice by mistake, or missed a letter out, it could still offer you the word you wanted.

That's all teasing though because as I've mentioned before, there's no chance of adding this to my or your existing phones. What version of T9 you get, and even where in the system it's available to you, is controlled by the phone manufacturer - and upgrades are rarely if ever available.

The manufacturer's control freakery and general weirdness leads to absurdities such as Nokia making T9 available for message creation but not for address book look-ups.

However, all is not gloom because Nuance is also working on some cool stuff that we can download and use, namely T9 Nav. This is a neat little tool that indexes all the content on your phone - address book entries, ringtones, phone settings, etc - and lets you look them up using predictive text.

If you let it, it loads in the background and pops up as you start entering a number. It offers you everything that matches, whether it's part of a phone number in your address book, or a text string that matches it in T9. Choose a match and it opens it for you in the appropriate application. It takes a little getting used to,

If you want to give it a try, you can still download the free version that Nuance made available for CeBIT - it's on the web here or you can browse to on your phone. Be warned that it allegedly expires on April 12th (the phone page says April 1st, but everywhere else says the 12th!).

Nuance says it'll offer a commercial version of T9 Nav for download in the second quarter - just after April 12th, hopefully.