Text Messaging Gets a Translator
By Rachel Rosmarin

(Business 2.0) – Remember Star Trek's universal translator, which instantly rendered Klingon into English? That was science fiction, but a New York City startup called Transclick is rolling out software that translates e-mail and text messages with just one click. Simply type a phrase on your mobile device and the software can convert it into any of 18 languages, including Chinese, Hebrew, and Portuguese. The Pentagon and NATO have been using a version of the software since 1999, but Alltel, Cingular, Sprint PCS, and Verizon Wireless are now getting Transclick up and running on most smartphones and the latest BlackBerrys.

Unlike electronic phrase books, the software understands natural language and offers dictionaries tailored to law, medicine, and manufacturing. That way, an oil engineer can ensure that a drill bit isn't confused with a horse's bit. At $3 a month for basic service and $30 for customization, Transclick is initially targeting global businesspeople. But CEO Robert Levin sees broader applications--say, eBay sellers talking to overseas buyers. Transclick has spent $4.5 million so far and expects to seek a round of funding this spring. If Levin can get enough carriers to adopt the service, he says, his firm's revenue could surpass $100 million a year. And that's without a Klingon dictionary. -- RACHEL ROSMARIN