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Badges? In light of digitizer confusion, we might need stinkin’ badges



Normally I’m pretty ambivalent on PC case badges, those little decals that let you know what’s inside your machine. But after all the confusion over the digitizer in the HP Slate 500, I’m picking a side and it’s pro-badge. Strongly pro-badge.

The confusion started even before the official announcement last week. An earlier report claimed it was N-Trig. The leaked video showed a pen that was clearly thick enough to hold a battery, indicating the N-Trig Digital Pencil. Engadget initally stated it was Wacom (since changed). On-screen troubles with palm rejection in our InkShow didn’t help. Even knowing it’s N-Trig doesn’t answer everything since they offer both a battery-powered pen and a battery-free option, which we’re discussing in the forum. I’ve been up and down the datasheet, and it’s just not listed. All this points to a need for clarification and simplification on the subject, not just in the HP Slate, but industry-wide. Fortunately, there’s already a system for that.

This photo is of my Fujitsu Lifebook T900. Unlike every other Tablet PC I’ve owned or used for a length of time, it tells me, right on the case, that the digitizer is Wacom Penabled. That means it’s compatible with any Wacom Penabled pen, be it a new stock Fujitsu pen, a pen from another Wacom Penabled Tablet PC, or a generic Penabled pen from Wacom. I own five different models of Wacom Penabled pen, all of which work with this tablet.

The badge doesn’t tell me whether it’s touch-capable or how many points it can recognize, but that’s not relevant to the compatibility issue (and point recognition can be expanded via software). If it’s touch-capable (and it is), it will work with any set of living hands (and possibly zombie hands – can’t know for sure). What it won’t do is work with any pen that’s not Wacom Penabled. Even pens from Wacom’s other pen tablet products won’t work with it. The badge is a precise statement of compatibility.

N-Trig would need two badges, one to specify compatibility with the battery-less pen and another for the battery-powered Digital Pencil. I believe the Pencil should work with both, but for simplicity’s sake, the badge should specify pen or pencil.

As tablets enter the mainstream, it is vital that consumers be informed of what’s in their device, especially given how easy it is to lose pens. Furthermore, pens are very personal input devices. Users will want options. They will need to know which pens work with their tablet. So to all Tablet PC vendors, please stop hiding what digitizer is in your devices and start displaying those badges so we know what’s what.

Yes, I know badges can be ugly (or awesome, depending on your geek inclination), but they aren’t that hard to peel off if you don’t like them. What do you think? Do you like them?



  1. GTaylor

    10/26/2010 at 1:13 pm

    Hear, Hear! I concur with the honorable delegate from GBM. Those who fork out hard earned cash, or dearly depressing credit for computer hardware have a right to know what is inside. The slide out tray shown on Hp’s 500 slate is a monument to respect for the customer! The tray refuses to treat the customer as an advertising medium. A simple screen in the accessory program file would also work as a simple and update-able augment. If only such respect for the customer were shown by badging the contents and needs of software as well as hardware!
    “Attitude!? We don’t need no stinking attitude!”

    • David Nelson1964

      10/26/2010 at 5:03 pm

      I agree that HP’s 500 tray is an ideal way of showing what’s there without making your computer look like it’s ready for NASCAR.

  2. Ingwing

    10/26/2010 at 1:22 pm

    I also strongly agree!! I went through hell and back with my HP2740p, because nobody was able to tell me which screen it had (Pen and touch? Pen only?) and not a single word on it on HPs website (at least the german website). They really suck on this topic, so give us clear info and BADGES! :)

  3. Serchend

    10/26/2010 at 1:38 pm

    IMO badges are only useful on a in store display model. Full details should be disclosed on packaging and on web site in specs and downloads. I have had customers damage cases and keyboards trying to remove those stickers. The bulk of consumers do not care about specs and do not service their own devices and corporations research and support the devices and are not in need of a badge to tell them what they have purchased.

  4. rainman

    10/26/2010 at 3:34 pm

    If a sausage can be recognized by touch digitizer, so can a zombie finger…

  5. Yogh

    10/26/2010 at 8:14 pm

    I’m pretty sure my tx2500 came with a Penabled badge along with all the others.

  6. Anonymous

    10/26/2010 at 9:10 pm

    Both my HP TC1100 and Gateway E-295C/C-140XL had Wacom Penabled badges. Haven’t seen them on the other Tablet PCs I’ve encountered, but their owners may have taken them off already.

    This does make me wonder…does N-Trig even have a badge of their own?

  7. Peninsider

    10/27/2010 at 5:13 am

    There are two problems here, one is the user knowing what’s inside and the other is the OEM wanting a financial incentive from the supplier to place the badge. As much as suppliers would like for users to know that their stuff is inside, it usually costs the supplier something not insignificant (or you have to be a company with the power of Intel or Microsoft, which neither N-trig nor Wacom are…).

    I am curious what HP wants to charge for anybody to get into their Tray.

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