At last Wednesday’s event when the Apple Pencil was announced everyone was thinking, “a stylus?, but Steve Jobs said…”, A stylus was a surprise and an interesting move by Apple since co-founder Steve Jobs often mocked them. But I can’t help but feel that many are taking Steve’s remarks about a stylus way out of context. He was after all talking about an iPhone.
Let’s remember, when the iPhone was first introduced in 2007, every other “smartphone”, had a smaller screen, a physical keyboard and a stylus. iPhone was unveiling a game-changing, patented, new user interface, the multi-touch screen. A stylus at that point in time was a non-starter for a product that introduced a new UI that made a stylus unnecessary. No stylus was also useful in separating the iPhone from the pack.
What Steve Jobs said about a stylus was specifically related to an iPhone and a shot at the competition. So let’s compare apples to apples (no pun intended).
iPhone, a small screen where you will likely be clicking on a contact, a date, an icon, a keypad, or typing on a virtual keyboard all of which can be accomplished with fingertips. A stylus was simply not needed.
The typical stylus in 2007 was basically a dumb pointing device. The Apple Pencil is a high precision instrument intended to be used with the powerful new iPad Pro. A device that can open and display AutoCad files that contain 100’s of thousands of objects in wireframe where editing requires a high degree of precision. This also applies to complex artistic or commercial illustrations. Apple’s growth in China may have played into the decision to go with a precision writing instrument for calligraphy where precise varying of line weights on a continuous path is critical. These are not actions that anyone should expect to be accomplished with a level of precision using a finger on any device.
The iPhone was never intended to serve as an engineer’s, architect’s or graphic designer’s drawing table or an artist’s easel. The differences in these devices and their intended use is clear. For anyone to see this as an opportunity to take a cheap shot only illustrates a lack of understanding of the devices and their intended purpose.
Apple has always been a company that enables its customers to be creative with its devices. It also has a great track record for predicting trends, looking ahead and developing technology that empowers the user to do things in ways that were not previously possible.
The one area where I feel that Apple deserves a little criticism is the combined price of the iPad Pro, the keyboard and the Apple Pencil. At well over $1,200 for the package, we are now deep into Macbook territory. When and if the time comes that an iPad can truly replace my Macbook, then I would feel this price is justified. Until then, all three should be offered as a bundle at a lower price. But hey—I’m just saying.