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With reggard to pen-based tablets, a friend of mine recently said to me…

“Microsoft has the lead.”

This is surprising since I really haven’t seen much of anything from Microsoft in this area. The Windows 8 developer preview Samsung tab with pen seems pretty basic in terms of its usefulness. And even full reviews that headline focus on pen offerings, drift into features and capabilities that have nothing to do with a stylus. (case-in-point, pun fully intended)

In terms of integrated pen support, I take every chance I get to use a non-iOS tablet. And I encounter a fair number in my travels and at conferences. I recently used the Lenovo tab with its “integrated” stylus at a conference in Barbados. The experience was awful. And what I mean by “awful” is absolutely crappy. Sensitivity was inconsistent. Taps and selections with the stylus were hit or miss. At times, the device wouldn’t even respond to the pen. Android – swing and a miss.

In terms of business productivity – arguably the dimension that Microsoft will attempt to address with its pen-supported tablets – one must ask; Will a pen matter? My hunch is that any requirement to use a stylus or any inference that a tight integration between pen and tablet may actually provide some discrete business benefit, will be a hollow promise, perhaps even a distraction designed to keep tablet designers out of gesture-based patent infringement hot water.

A more reasonable bet (for business productivity) is on gestures and screen resolutions that allow the human/capacitive model to function at high zoom levels. But don’t misunderstand me – I use a stylus from time-to-time – specifically this one – especially when I’m drawing on Paper.

Indeed, non-capacitive pen-based interfaces should be better than capacitive touch displays, but the reality [so far] is that they’re not.

I think Steve was right -

“If you see a stylus, they blew it.”

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