Kannuu is looking for developers to integrate its five-button display into apps that index multimedia databases. (Credit: Kannuu)

When my colleague, Webware.com Editor Josh Lowensohn, first looked at Kannuu, an alternative platform for inputting search queries into a specific database or device, he astutely noted that, in order for any keyboard alternative to succeed, "it's not end users you have to convince...It's the device manufacturers. And they're chicken."

Kannuu is having some luck in that respect, CEO Sean-Michael Daley said in a demo at CNET headquarters. Now the company's setting out to win the hearts of independent developers, whom Daley would like to see integrating Kannuu's unconventional five-button face into new products. To that end, Kannuu announced on Tuesday a developers' network with links to software kits that developers can download and use to build their own applications.

I partially disagree with my colleague in thinking of Kannuu as a keyboard replacement for mobile phones. It is much more of an integrated search platform comprised of a database, the algorithm that manages it, and the five-button display designed to make inputting search terms faster on devices with restrictive controls. That includes remotes for set-top boxes, and sure, mobile phones, too.

Depending on the contents of the database--be it music, phone contacts, or records of files--the four most commonly chosen letters will surface as the first selection options (you can keep scrolling if your preferred letter is absent.) The predictive algorithm will help narrow down the user's search based on their next selection, with the goal of pulling the desired listing from thousands of possibilities in fewer clicks than it takes to type the full search term.

Sophisticated predictive text could throw a wrench in Kannuu's plans for mobile phone adoption, as might a user's frustration if they have to scroll through three pages of button options (about half the alphabet) before finding the letter they want. I agree with Josh that it's unlikely we'll see Kannuu's lookup interface replace the keypad for most uses, though it's much more likely to see it honed for individual data-housing apps. Especially if developers aren't so drained by the iPhone, Android, and Yahoo SDKs that they call it quits for awhile.

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.