Is Tablet Inking Dead?

This morning I received an email from a long time reader asking the question in the title of this post. Here’s an except from that email:

I’m a vice president in a large company and have relied on my tablet for more years than I want to admit.

WHERE IS ONENOTE IN ALL THIS MESS?  I have a HP2730 and OneNote is without a doubt the most productive tool I have ever used.  I know we’re in the minority but is inking dead?  I’d love to have a light tablet but, no OneNote… no deal.

I’m sure he’s not alone. I sent back a reply and I’m going to expand on it a bit here even though for many I sure this is a tired conversation. But like our reader and some others I know, it is a topic near and dear to our hearts if not our workflow.

So, is Inking dead on a Tablet? I don’t think it is dead, but it certainly isn’t a priority for those creating devices that require a stylus and a digitizer to make it work. In my heart of hearts I hope any future hardware (note I said hardware) development on Inking is just in a state of suspension until someone in the crazy Tablet race we’re running these days sees it as a way to differentiate. Asus is certainly attempting to keep some form of digital inking alive with the EEE Note EA800 and at the moment they are the only one that is at least attempting that kind of effort, unless you include the HP Slate 500. Of course you can still purchase old fashioned Tablet PCs from the likes of Fujitsu, HP, Motion, and Lenovo, but we’re talking the newer devices here. But since Microsoft essentially gave up on Inking when it started the touch craze with UMPCs, no one has taken digital Inking that seriously.

iOS Developers Making Strides

Or have they? Software developers for the iPad have made some pretty impressive strides in my view and I’ve chronicled my experiments with many of those Apps including Penultimate, WritePad, Noteshelf, Note Taker HD, Notes Plus, and PhatPad to name a few. What’s impressive about some of these Apps is that they have created a solution to allow for Wrist Protection or Palm Rejection, making the Digital Inking experience possible. I look for that development to continue and I would hope that we’d see a similar kind of move on the Android front, but so far I haven’t heard any inklings in that vein.

But will that be enough to satisfy the real Digital Inkers out there? That all depends on your needs. Honestly, many of mine have been solved by a combination of Penultimate, Note Shelf, and iAnnotate PDF. But your mileage may vary.

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The Lost Promise of OneNote

But as to our reader’s feelings about OneNote. My rantings and railings about this have grown even more tiresome than the debate about Inking. Calling it the App Microsoft doesn’t want the world to hear about has fallen on many a deaf ear. I agree that OneNote is one heck of a productive tool, not just for Digital Inkers, but even for those who don’t  have a Tablet PC. There is at least one third party solution out there called MobileNoter. It’s a combination of an App and a service that allows you to view and edit Ink notes on iOS and Android and sync back and forth with OneNote. The service requires a $1.25 a month fee, but the folks behind MobileNoter continue to advance things along, so if you’re looking for that kind of solution you might want to support them. And then Microsoft released an iPhone OneNote App to many a cheer. But for Digital Inkers it is primarily a waste of time because you can view Digital Ink notes on it. Quite frankly I view the OneNote App as symbolic of Microsoft’s head up the butt approach to Digital Inking as a whole and not just with OneNote.

Somewhere, somehow, some marketing maven convinced the world that there’s no money in Digital Inking. Perhaps that’s true. It certainly is true in the context of creating platforms to sell ads. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again here. If there is going to be a resurgence in Digital Inking, I’m betting Apple will be the one to make it happen. They’ll announce it as if they’ve discovered it. They’ll perform their usual magic, and they’ll probably advance it further than Microsoft ever cared to. That’s no sure thing of course, but I will not be surprised if it happens some day.

Check out these posts on some of the iPad Inking Apps mentioned in this post.

Comments

  1. Elgringo79 says

    CONCUR!!!

    I would like to throw UPad in to the mix of iPad notetaking apps. I just tried this the other night. I like it because it can do all forms of note taking, as well as open and annotate PDFs.

    Warner, have you found a way to take something web screenshots and open them for annotation/incorporate them into notes? So far, all I can think to do is Browser>Instapaper>PDF>UPad. If you have some kind of OneNote replacement system, I’d love to hear about it.

    Thanks

  2. Rodfather says

    Hopefully the HTC Flyer will bring some of it back. It’s interesting seeing nTrig on a linux device.

  3. Max says

    After trying out a few note taking apps, I went to for Notes Plus – maybe the worst name but definitely the best app (http://notesplusapp.com/). I even bought Penultimate afterwards when it was on sale. It does not come close. Sure, I wished that it would sync with Evernote. Maybe next version.

  4. Mikenick says

    The ASUS EP121, or eee Slate, looks set to do a decent job here. Unlikely to make huge waves, but may introduce a few new users to good quality (e.g. wacom) stylus input.

  5. Alain Chappaz says

    MS doesn’t have a monopoly on head-up-the-butt comments & ideas. “Somebody” killed the Apple Newton because there was “no future” in handwriting recognition. “Somebody” recently said there was no future in 7-inch tablets. “Somebody” said if you have to use a stylus on a tablet then you have failed. “Somebody” was/is dead wrong on all counts. My ageing Tablet PC toolkit includes OneNote and FITALY – guess what, I get more done faster on one of my tablets than on the Galaxy Tab. Any day.

  6. Antoine RJ Wright says

    The problem with inking wasn’t OneNote or tablets, it was actually the rest of the OS that made it quite painful to get into an inking mindset that others (whether they were inking or not) would readily accept. a little more than a half decade ago when I went about inking for notes and such (was working as a web designer and developer, so it totally wasn’t in the frame of needed skills), it was still too young a tech for people to see, let alone receive inked emails (especially when they couldn’t copy and paste easily your text and make it theirs).

    These days, there’s no need to not ink. I do it on my iPad with Tactilis and finger, sending finished notes to Evernote so that they are catalogued and scannable (usable from my smartphone as well in this case). OneNote can do the same, and it doesn’t need an app to do it, just users using it, and use cases where it makes sense.

    I’d argue that most of us with these tablets and abilities need to just do it. The practice will catch on as needed – and to those it doesn’t, it will at least become accepted, and part of the many ways that we go about using input and making our own individualized marks within digital domains.

  7. Tuur says

    I’m really hoping the new Motion Computing CL900 will do the trick for my situation (insurance broker).
    Also, Fujitsu is coming with a W7 tablet I think with Wacom digitizer.
    A little more patience…

  8. Jeff Jackson says

    Writing notes on an iPad with a saugage stylus is the equivalant of writing on an index card. One Note is like having a filing cabinet of notebooks that your secretary has carefully organized and indexed for you.

  9. GoodThings2Life says

    In addition to the newest Motion models as well as the Asus Eee Slate (I REALLY hate their naming conventions!), Fujitsu is also preparing to release a new high-end Windows slate. It was announced by Mary Jo Foley last week, and I confess my dismay that nobody here noticed it or picked up on it. You can read about it here:

    http://www.zdnet.com/blog/microsoft/fujitsu-stylistic-windows-7-slate-microsofts-latest-greatest-ipad-competitor/8778

    Anyway, I agree with all the points made, but I want to make a few clarifications. Microsoft failed, because there were essentially two men with the tablet vision, and both of them are gone now. Gates retired and stepped aside, and Allard was silenced. I blame Microsoft’s current standings on Ballmer for lacking vision and leadership, but besides that point, I believe that Microsoft as usual is its own biggest enemy for not marketing, developing, and promoting the technologies effectively.

    Apple isn’t effective because they’re cutting edge (they’re absolutely NOT). They’re effective because they’re in-your-face all the time. You can’t have a commercial break without them, you can’t sit in a hospital lobby (trust me I know), and you can’t read a tech blog without them being shoved in your face all the ****ing time. So people pay attention to that, and they check it out, and of course they like what they see– the products are so ridiculously simple, because they’re hyper-controlled to the point of stupidity. The devices are magical, indeed, because you tap this picture and it shows me whatever I want.

    Then there’s the rest of us who are trying to get work done, and we’re the ones who are forgotten about because everyone is too distracted by the shiny toys. I love OneNote and Outlook, and I live in those apps. I cannot survive without them in my job, and while my HP 2740p is fantastic, it’s big and bulky. I had hoped the Slate 500 would finally be my white knight of tablets, but alas it is too slow for my needs. So now I have to hope for the Asus or Fujitsu tablets and hope for the best. The Fujitsu tablet looks EXTREMELY promising.

    BUT– and there’s always a but– it’s looking to be around $1100, and suddenly the business case is gone, even though the devices are CLEARLY business-oriented units. How will I convince my Apple-loving doctors and technophobic nurses that it’s in their interest to have an expensive Windows tablet when they can have a $800 iPad they know how to use because of their iPhones? As I said in a post here yesterday, for the first time in history, Apple is on the right side of the cost-effectiveness argument.

    Is inking dead? Not in my eyes, and I will carry a Windows tablet to my grave, and in the eyes of business OEM’s, no… but it sure seems like they want it to be.

  10. lennartp says

    @ Tuur: the Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 comes with a N-Trig digitizer.
    @ GoodThings2Life: yes, Apple is shoved in your face all the time. Just count the entries on this site after the iPad2 announcement. WOW, revoluuuuutionary, it´s THINNER! And 1,2,3, no FOUR companies have released new cases!!! OMG!!!! ;)

  11. Faizul Suhail says

    The reasons I use my iPad are mainly Noteshelf for note-taking and iAnnotatePDF for Text book reading. Also, Zinio for magazines, PressReader for newspapers and iBooks for Reading and obviously emails and websurf. I have around 400 apps on my iPad but I realize these are the only thing I use it for.
    HTC Flyer has the technology, all it needs are apps like Noteshelf.
    And if Noteshelf can add features like tabs and categories it can replace any need for paper notebooks. These apps look and feel better than OneNote but they need to add more features. (Noteshelf’s DropBox Sync is seamless and is really awesome……I take a 20 page note and hit dropbox sync, in seconds its on my computer.)
    But yes I too think that the day Apple introduces a pen Stylus for iPad………..all students and Hospitals will switch to it. They did get a patent for a pen recently. Hopefully they implement it.
    By the way I am a medical resident and have to read huge books with a lot of pictures, graphs and xrays, some like 4000 pages. iAnnotatePDF has been a blessing for me. Now I read all my textbooks on the iPad and dont have to carry around these huge books. Only thing is that books this large are slow on iPad…..maybe iPad 2’s faster processor helps with this.
    And the stylus from boxwave and the new one from power support works just like pens for me. Pogo is also good but its tip runs out fast (I take 40-50 page notes every day on NoteShelf)

  12. Manacap says

    I will only buy a tablet with inking capability. The problem is that Apple figured out all the other issues with the tablet — instant on, long batter life, and form factor — but left out inking. So people see the value of the tablet but are really missing out on the huge gain that inking could bring to the whole equation. I see pictures of students with an iPad and paper notebook at college for taking notes in class. You can not type on a touch sensitive screen the same way you could write things down. Oh well, I am obviously a minority. I love OneNote — I can’t understand why Microsoft has given up the opportunity.

  13. LeMel says

    I will never get tired of OneNote hyping. I am a OneNote fanboy. There, said it…and I use Evernote!

    I hope Apple relents on the stylus, and either 1. Microsoft releases an iOS OneNote or 2. (more likely) Evernote adds a richer inking UI.

    Sadly, I think the stylus/inking/active digitizer thing may reach a ‘one-button mouse’ level of stubbornness for Mr. Jobs.

  14. GTaylor says

    Is Inking Dead?
    A computer is a computer is a computer and people can do what ever they want with their computer. As computers acquire more capabilities, people can do more with them and the ability of the computer to easily acquire additional features increases. At that point the control of hardware and software manufacturers decreases as the control of the user increases. Hmmmm, bad form there.

    It would be best from the manufacturers position to fragment the market by dividing up the features, dumb down the product, and condition the consumer through advertising to self identify with various more limited products. That way each more limited product in the hands of the consumer will need expensive add on products to function meet basic demands and the basic products can be totally revamped according to set time tables instead of needing to wait for actual product innovations.

  15. Motmaitre says

    “and at the moment they are the only one that is at least attempting that kind of effort, unless you include the HP Slate 500. ”

    You may want to do some research before you post. There is a whole raft of digital pen-enabled Windows 7 tablets coming out shortly. These include the Motion CL900, the Fujitsu Stylistic Q550, the Lenovo Ideapad Slate, and Dell’s Rosemount Latitude tablet.

    Every single one of these has an active digitizer, is a true slate (not a convertible) and runs on Windows 7. So your article’s entire premise about inking being on the back burner is wrong. HP, Dell, Fujitsu, Asus & Motion have all realised the potential for pen-based input in Windows, and are responding with these products. I am one of the people waiting eagerly for their release.

    One more thing: it is a canard that Windows 7 doesn’t work well with touch. I’ve been using Windows tablets for years and it is fantastic for both touch and pen. Once again, do some actual research like using one, instead of just repeating what everybody says on the internet.

    • Nomad says

      I agree that the new Win 7 & based tablets look promising. Until now, the only real option was using a convertable touch laptop but they were rather bulky to read on and too thick to comfortably ink on.

      In comparison the new Win 7 based slates will be a lot more ergonomic and lighter. I hope they’re going to be powerful enough to smoothly run Win 7. Apple has had the advantage of building both it’s h/w and s/w, and thus the Ipad feels more optimized.

    • Nomad says

      I agree that the new Win 7 & based tablets look promising. Until now, the only real option was using a convertable touch laptop but they were rather bulky to read on and too thick to comfortably ink on.

      In comparison the new Win 7 based slates will be a lot more ergonomic and lighter. I hope they’re going to be powerful enough to smoothly run Win 7. Apple has had the advantage of building both it’s h/w and s/w, and thus the Ipad feels more optimized.

  16. Nomadic says

    For those waiting for Apple to go the inking way on the Ipad it’s going to be long wait. Meanwhile, as pointed out there are a number of apps out there which seem to do a good job. I’ve yet to try these out and still wonder if they are really any good because the Ipad lacks an active digitizer? How to do they compare to Windows based inking?

  17. Nomadic says

    For those waiting for Apple to go the inking way on the Ipad it’s going to be long wait. Meanwhile, as pointed out there are a number of apps out there which seem to do a good job. I’ve yet to try these out and still wonder if they are really any good because the Ipad lacks an active digitizer? How to do they compare to Windows based inking?

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