I recently wrote an article on Ghacks titled “Is Samsung Giving up on the S-Pen?”, which argued that Samsung is shying away from releasing many new devices that feature the famous “S-Pen” stylus associated with it’s “Galaxy Note” brand.
The argument was that Samsung did not find mainstream traction for the S-Pen, that it hasn’t released a new S-Pen equipped Note tablet since 2014, and that it’s stylish new ‘Edge’ large screen phablets left the stylus behind. Coincidentally, however, shortly after that article was published, there were signs that Microsoft is undertaking a campaign to promote digital pens (specifically, it’s ‘Surface Pen’) as the ultimate tool for note taking and innovation.
This article aims to describe Microsoft’s efforts to promote digital pens in general, and to ponder the question: who’s right? Are digital pens here to stay, now that touchscreens are everywhere?
I recently received an email from Microsoft promoting a free downloadable ebook they issued titled "The innovator's guide to Note taking". Being an avid note taker AND generally a sucker for downloadable guides, I quickly downloaded it, my interest piqued by the combination of “innovation” and “note taking”. You can download it for yourself here or here in exchange for registering with a valid email.
The guide was a highly polished affair which at first glance didn't seem like it was overtly selling anything. The gist of the argument in the guide went something like the following (Note: this is a very quick and dirty summary; and I am skipping a lot of info, especially examples and studies used in justification of these ideas).
A few days later, I received another email from Microsoft with the subject line “Amazing Ways a Pen Can Change Your Life”. This was a straightforward promotion of the Surface Pen – “The digital pen you’ve been waiting for” – and linked to a promotional video on YouTube, which you can view below.
It would seem, in the outset, that Microsoft is jumping into the digital pen bandwagon at the very same time that Samsung has cooled off on the concept. Apple, of course, is also jumping in with the Apple pencil for the iPad Pro.
Let me state up front that I am a huge fan of Samsung’s S-Pen and Note series, and use it daily. If we assume that everyone involved is right, we get the following set of arguments:
As an artistically inclined techie, I will say that I am always in the market for a digital pen and a hi-resolution screen. I may or may not be in the minority, but content creation is the mainstay of the information age, and a digital pen is extremely useful for that purpose. Microsoft thinks it can be useful for a wide range of applications: for teachers, composers, doctors, etc., as seen in the video above.
Suffice it to say there will always be a market for digital pens, and I for one have been considering switching from the Note to the Surface for some time. The real question is: in the future, will the market for digital pens be shrinking, or will it be growing. Microsoft seems to think the answer is the latter. I hope they are right.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.