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Forget CrunchPad, Meet InkPad



symicMy daily routine is centered around a paper tablet.  I keep track of my to-do items, record important notes, and write down new ideas.  I love having the ability to write things down as they enter my mind and simply flipping back a few pages to remember what I did the day before.  My reliance on a paper tablet leads me to believe that a simple, low-cost device the size of an ebook reader with the ability to record and share written notes could transform our daily operations.  The handwritten word may live to see another day.

The “ink pad” would be a simple, practical, and useful device.  It would not be like the overkill electronic journal we’ve seen in mock-up videos from Microsoft’s Courier.  This inkable tablet would finally satisfy what’s been missing with traditional Tablet PCs.

I love Tablet PCs.  They’re a lot of fun to use and play around with, but they are largely impractical for most folks.  Most people do not want to lug around a full-fledged computer to keep notes for work or class.  Programs like Microsoft’s OneNote are extremely functional but also over complicated for the average worker.  The inkpad would require no prior knowledge to operate other than that required to use a paper tablet and ink pen.

The primary method of input would be a stylus and the main function would be recording notes.  It would resemble a traditional notepad in size and design.  It would differ from the rumored Apple Tablet and Crunchpad as those devices focus on media and entertainment.  The inkpad would focus on productivity, handwriting, and drawings; there would be no need for 3D rendering capabilities, extreme gaming, or HD video viewing.  The name of the game would be note taking and the focus of this device would be as a tool rather than an instrument of pleasure.

inkpad2Here is a list of features that would make the inkpad useful in our daily lives:

  • Sunlight readable, non-color LCD
  • 7-10 inch capacitive touchscreen with stylus as primary method of input
  • As thin as an iPhone or popular ebook readers
  • Built in SD card reader to quickly transfer notes and automatically back up your work
  • 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi to share notes wirelessly
  • Ability to check IMAP, POP & Exchange email accounts and send ink notes via email
  • Internal processor built for the task, not a cookie cutter Intel Atom processor
  • Success of this device would require a low cost.  Pricing would be similar to cell phones/ebook readers.
  • All day battery life with at least 24 hr. standby.  The device would automatically go to sleep after inactivity.
  • The inkpad does not need full web access because it would be supplemented with widget-style applications which provide news feeds and social streams.

The inkpad could make our daily routines better by having the ability to easily share and back up important notes while reducing our dependence on paper products.  This device could be a success in business, education, and our personal lives.  Why isn’t this already on the market?  For $150 bucks and never having to buy another paper tablet or agenda/planner, who wouldn’t pick up one of these?

What additional features would you suggest for the inkpad and do you think it has a place?

Photo credit: Symic (flickr cc)



  1. ethibault

    10/17/2009 at 4:19 am

    I second this request.

    Personnally I would be pleased with a screen of 12″ for reading text (I am slightly over 40 and below 10″ is too small, I prefer 12″ like on the NC20 by samsung).

    I once thought that the gigabyte 1028M would be that equivalent inking pad but then I discovered that to enable good handwriting you need a good digitizer which raises the price.

    This is the reason why the netbook concept (mobility and price) did not produce the equivalent of the ink pad (mobility and handwriting) because of the price of a decent digitizer.

    The problem is I realised that tablet pc is a niche, look at the price at which they sell in general (often 2000 $) it proves that to date the demand is weak.

    What is really terrible is that we are so close to this with the multiplication of convertible netbooks and the touch concept.

    The problem is the touch conept is not the hand writing able concept, the touch concept tries to surf on the fashion of ipod multitouch surfing and MS surface but so far it avoids hand writing concept too bad !

    will windows 7 change this ?
    I doubt, I fear that touch fashion will take everything, and as usual fashions are shallow and don’t go to the deep core of things I am afraid handwriting may remain out of the mainstream too bad for the use and for the price of hand writing able models.

    The thing is, that pc makers don’t believe in hand writing able device because they think that tablet pc will remain a niche with little sales, that is the reson why they come so close to it but don’t try it because they do not see.

  2. ethibault

    10/17/2009 at 6:05 am

    alternatively a small inkpad could simply be the iphone with an inking app, it would be interesting to try and a killer aplication

  3. Regular Reader

    10/17/2009 at 6:47 am

    Matthew your post captures exactly what I am looking for and I thank you for articulating the need extremely well. I hope some OEM is reading this blog and comes to market with such a device. I am an executive attending meetings all day long. I have the crackberry for email, calendar, and web. I need what you described for taking notes. I have three tablet PC’s, none of which survive ten hour days of non-stop meetings. I would buy one of what you describe for each of my 110 employees who attend meetings as a key component of their job. I believe my fellow executives would jump on this too, none of whom even tried a tablet PC and several of whom own a Kindle.

  4. MarceloR

    10/17/2009 at 6:53 am

    What you describe is the InfoPad. We can dream some more at

  5. Jay

    10/17/2009 at 7:05 am

    The device should have sync to cloud functionality so that all your notes could be accessed across platforms. Perhaps the notetaking apps could seamlessly integrate with Evernote. In fact, why couldn’t Evernote market this device with their brand?

  6. KJ

    10/17/2009 at 7:24 am

    YES! Spot on.

    I’m seriously considering an iREX DR800 for this and eagerly await their availability. I love my kindle, but the open platform would be a win, too. I’m a little disappointed/concerned that the note taking functionality won’t be available at launch and will come in a later release. Nonetheless, I’ve read some reviews of folks who use their other products for note taking, and with a wacom digitizer, it seems to be the ticket. I have a full fledged fujitsu tablet that I love, am an avid onenote user, but it is just to big to use in meetings. I’m the dorky guy with the tablet pc!

    I’ve considered the viliv devices as some seem to be able to ink on them, but it is a long shot that vectoring won’t be a serious issue. I probably would have sprung for an OQO if they were still around, despite the small screen, I really want an active digitizer.

    As with you, all I really want is something small that I can take notes on. I’ve otherwise gone completely paperless for work, but is a real pain to have to scan in paper notes from those instances where I can type notes on my convertible, or using it pen fashion is simply too cumbersome.

  7. phenderson

    10/17/2009 at 7:43 am

    Nearly my dream device. But I would like to add a simple folder system for organizing notes, search, and an easy way to keep my notes synced with my laptop.

    With all of the potential tablets on the horizon I have been hoping that one of them will give the functionality that you describe.

  8. Warner Crocker

    10/17/2009 at 8:11 am

    Spot on, Matt.

  9. Mike Johnson

    10/17/2009 at 8:49 am

    Sounds like just the thing i would love to have.

  10. Rob

    10/17/2009 at 9:14 am

    this is further confirmation where dedicated devices that excel in their designed purpose are what people are after. Stick it in the $100 – $200 range and I’d definitely buy one. it is why I still carry a moleskine with me everywhere i go, and that is coming from a tablet fan.

    Excellent post.


    10/17/2009 at 9:35 am

    so basically go back to the palm pda, only with a larger screen?

    or maybe the apple newton is a better comparison?

  12. Gavin Miller

    10/17/2009 at 9:39 am

    OK guys, let’s get the capital together and sell it under the GBM brand name. Who’s going to be Project Manager? :-)

    We could design our own Kindle like ‘whispernet’ that continuously backs up notes to the cloud.

  13. Travis Carnahan

    10/17/2009 at 10:05 am

    Agree with everything except the internet access. Maybe someone should talk to the Redfly folks to see if they want to make a tablet version of their product with the additional hardware suggested. Good article!!

  14. DrMud

    10/17/2009 at 1:22 pm

    It does remind me of my Palm TX with DayNotez from Natara. It was always ready in my pocket, Then I read wonderful reviews of the HTC Advantage and I bought a 7510 and sold the TX. The HTC is not in my pocket. Once it was in my outside coat pocket, I was seated, and it fell 16 inches to the concrete floor, face down. HTC replaced the screen for $448 and it never went into my pocket again; where is my Advantage? Anybody want to sell me a TX?

  15. Xavier

    10/17/2009 at 1:29 pm

    “…a tool rather than an instrument of pleasure.” That distinction is key. Taking the bling out of a device and focusing on utility changes a lot.

  16. smh

    10/17/2009 at 1:51 pm

    This reminds me of htc advantage, only the screen size is off by your suggestions. One can always modify the OS so that only the most necessary functions are available or completely get rid of WinMo and get something that fits more properly.

  17. smh

    10/17/2009 at 2:19 pm

    just made some basic calculations and it seems that the dimensions for a device with 10″ (4×3 ratio) screen can be pressed down to 220x160x18 mm (lxwxt). The weight will depend solely on battery and material choice – but a realistic estimate would be around 600-900 grams and 10-12 hours of battery life.

  18. Nameless

    10/17/2009 at 2:43 pm

    The Apple Newton MessagePad 2000/2100 would probably be a better fit. It was basically a supercharged digital memo pad, and the battery life was pretty good due to the use of a grayscale screen that generally did not need a backlight in bright areas.

    Also, the screen was 6″ 480×320. Still smaller than what the original article suggests, but still pretty large.

    Combine those with what is still an unsurpassed interface for pen-centric use, and you have a device that still has a diehard following to this day. A working MP2000/2100 can still fetch a few hundred dollars.

  19. Nameless

    10/17/2009 at 2:49 pm

    …Gah, what is it with GBM’s comments not having replies nest under the replied post?

    Anyway, for my remarks on the main article, it reminds me a lot of another article writer’s suggested device, which he termed the “ReiterPad”. (Don’t remember much else other than that name.)

    I really want to see something like this happen. It would especially be a godsend for students and other people who may need to handle non-plain-text information.

    Sure, I have an HP TC1100 already. I like it a lot. Its chief flaw, however, is battery life; I only have the battery I got with it, and it only lasts around 1 hour and 45 minutes from my estimates. There are no extended batteries due to the design, either. Not exactly very liberating from AC power sockets…

    While I do prefer more versatile devices like the Courier concept, battery life is a real sticking point if I happen to not be in range of AC power. I want something that I can be assured isn’t going to run out of juice when I need it most.

  20. WellThen

    10/17/2009 at 4:06 pm

    It would be great to have such a device (although Id prefer the Courier also). But is it realistic to think that a $100-200 device can have these features, and a decent enough digitizer?

  21. Scott

    10/17/2009 at 4:57 pm

    For just notes, it should be smaller than 10″ IMHO

    -size of an iPod touch

    -active digitizer (touch is too imprecise for my taste, even with a pen)

    -battery that lasts 24 hours (8 hours w/wireless on)

    I could see a market for something like this in 3×5 and 5×8 inches…especially in education (a less expensive LS800 would’ve been very cool)

    Any bigger and you may as well get a full sized slate and an extra battery.

    Of course, once you get the foot in the door with something like that, mission creep will lead to them becoming powerful, full-bore mini tablet pcs in about 5 years

  22. Ideas That Work!

    10/17/2009 at 5:36 pm

    Yes, I would love one of these devices, although I would like more functionality as I would use this device as my primary productivity tool. Full Internet, email, productivity apps, and compatibility with PC and Mac would be a plus for me. Actually, I like what I am seeing thus far with Microsoft’s tablet. If it could only live up to what we are seeing in the videos and more, and come in at a reasonable price point–let’s say $600 or less.

  23. tatej

    10/18/2009 at 12:30 am

    Great Idea. The only thing I would add is pim functions, the ability to synch desktop pim software and back up all information to a desktop. Oh and grey scale is just fine. Battery life and dead nuts reliability are key for a device like this.

    Why has no one developed on of these yet.

  24. tatej

    10/18/2009 at 12:31 am

    I forgot to add:

    I don’t need handwriting recognition.

  25. Jan

    10/18/2009 at 1:36 pm

    I love this idea!
    I’m med student and I use my tablet pc to take notes during lectures. However, there is no way I could carry a bulky and heavy tablet pc on ward rounds to take notes. On the other hand this new concept device could fit in pocket any time I needed my both hands :)

  26. ethibault

    10/19/2009 at 4:13 am

    I think the number of comments speaks fo the interest of such a device (asus, samsung msi, acer, hp, fujitsu, I hope you listen…)

  27. smh

    10/19/2009 at 6:33 am

    just found this:

    If they where to modify a bit on the device then we would end up with a very nice inkpad!!

  28. quesadillaap

    10/19/2009 at 11:14 am

    This is exactly what I want, and I’m hoping the new generation of e-book readers will deliver this. I don’t want something as small as an iphone though, but I do want something the size of a real notepad.

  29. TateJ

    10/19/2009 at 1:14 pm

    Now that I have thought about it. I want a device that has an 8 to 10 inch screen with Inkseine and Outlook fucntionality, wifi (I don’t need wireless broadband) and the ablitiy to back up to a full computer

  30. Jerry

    10/22/2009 at 9:14 pm


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