back to article Samsung: Never mind Steve Jobs, let's snap off a piece of stylus biz

Steve Jobs famously said of tablets: "If it comes with a stylus, you're doing it wrong", but Samsung is betting the vibrating tools will go big and has just bought a 5 per cent stake in stylus-making company Wacom. Wacom has already made pens for Samsung, and the new investment lays the foundations for more and better styluses …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Vibrating pen? Interesting.

    If these "vibrating pens" are waterproof, smooth-sided and ~5mm diameter, I predict they will sell extremely well.

    1. FartingHippo

      Re: Vibrating pen? Interesting.

      5mm? My sympathies.

      1. Lyle Dietz
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Vibrating pen? Interesting.

        It doesn't have to be very big to be used for toggling the bit.

        Paris: I'm sure she gets her bit toggled all the time.

    2. taxman

      Re: Vibrating pen? Interesting.

      For bean counters surely!

      1. Rampant Spaniel

        Re: What will Oil companies do..

        I predict them being very popular with teenage girls (after wearing out harry's broom) and theres potential for selling them with a free copy of 50 shades!

      2. Comments are attributed to your handle

        Re: Vibrating pen? Interesting.

        Upvotes for everyone!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But seriously

    I find it faster and easier to annotate MS Office docs in meetings on my 7-year-old Windows XP Tablet PC than any of my iDevice fanboi colleagues clicking away at their virtual on-screen keyboards. Most of us learned to use pencils before anything else (could be different now, I s'pose, but it'll take 20+ years to find out) and I have never understood the use of fat pudgy fingers to scribe on a screen when holding a pen is so intuitive for all ...

    Perhaps because Apple can't patent it (prior art) it's by definition not cool enough for creative types?

    1. Giles Jones Gold badge

      Re: But seriously

      I think he meant "if your tablet can't be used with fingers then you're doing it wrong". So having a UI designed such that you can't touch things unless you use a pointy stick is bad design.

      Obviously supporting a pen or stylus as a drawing device is useful, but it should be an optional extra just like using a Wacom tablet for drawing is optional.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: But seriously

        But if your UI can use a clumsy finger and the device comes with a pen then all the better.

        Nothing optional about it.

        1. P. Lee Silver badge

          Re: But seriously

          > But if your UI can use a clumsy finger and the device comes with a pen then all the better.

          But that's a large "if."

          I would imagine multitouch with a stylus is hard and designing a UI for both multitouch fingers and stylus is harder still.

      2. Nuno trancoso

        Re: But seriously

        Ever had to draw, as in "painting" in a graphics app as opposed to "drawing" in AutoCAD/etc with a mouse? Not fun, not intuitive, not functional. And given tablets potential as a drawing tablet, Samsung might be wanting to cash in on that for digital artists instead of assuming they'll find fingerpainting in Photoshop either amusing or productive.

        On the UI matter, deliberately designing it so that it accommodates fat fingered people and "touch with fingers" is fair design, but it's also a waste of potential. Give users a choice between "lame ui for fingers" and "slick 4x+ more functional ui for stylus" and watch them pick up the pen like thingy.

        Then again, might be that Apple is still buthurt over Palm given they got it oh so right were Apple royally messed. Palm had stylus>stylus is bad. Newblown had stylus too>stylus must be evil incarnated.

        Beer salute to my late III. 2 AA's lasted a month+. Monochrome, ugly and 100% reliable until the touchscreen went south...

      3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: But seriously

        So having a UI designed such that you can't touch things unless you use a pointy stick is bad design.

        That's the UI of my trusty pad of paper, and I'm quite happy with it. I'd be just as happy with it in a tablet device - I don't ever want to touch the screen with my fingers.

        "Bad design", here as always, is highly subjective. What Jobs meant was "if it doesn't work the way I want it to work, then it's wrong, because my opinion is the only one that matters".

  3. MrXavia
    Thumb Up

    Excellent move, I have a Note 10.1 and I have to say the pen is very useful!

    Anyone who has ever tried to use a capacitive stylus will know that they wear out easy and are not that accurate..

    I have a Wacom bamboo tablet on my PC instead of a mouse, touch for normal usage, pen for drawing etc.. best of both worlds!

    1. Thomas 4

      Have to agree

      I only have a Bamboo Fun drawing tablet but it works very well for what I need. A Samsung tablet, with Wacom stylus tips and tricks....the only thing missing is a tablet adaptedversion of CS6 and my happy places would most definitely be tingled.

      1. Anonymous Coward 15

        Re: Have to agree

        my happy places would most definitely be tingled.

        The vibrations will help with that.

  4. Lars Silver badge

    Pen or no pen

    I would take the one with the pen.

  5. CarlC

    Have to agree, the SPen is an awesome addition to the tablet (mine is a Note 10.1).

    The fine tip and accuracy really makes it useful

    1. Silverburn

      The s-pen performance does vary a bit though - I have the original Galaxy note, and it's not so good; the point is way off, the sensitivity not that great and being left handed it made it even worse.

      on the upside, gen 2 with the Note 2 is noticably better.

  6. Jim Coleman

    Round and round....

    ....And so the IT fashion turns full circle. Pen input devices gave way to touch-only, which will give way to pen input devices again. Difference for the sake of it? Now that we've thrown the pen away, we want it back? Were Apple wrong?

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Round and round....

      Why does it have to be so polarised? You can use many tablets with either finger or a pen. Some interactions work best with fingers such as pinch zooming, broad swiping and scrolling however with a pen handwriting recognition and fine selection and interactions work much better. This gives you the choice of using the optimal or your preferred user interface interaction method. We'll see similar arguments whenever voice recognition finally matures and becomes useful.

      It's a forward thinking more from Samsung though. Increased usage of stylus inputs could easily happen in the near future and positioning themselves like this is wise.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Round and round....

      It won't be full circle- no one is suggesting abandoning finger-touch as it suitable for many tablet based tasks- especially those centred around making calls, browsing and consuming media. What you lose in accuracy you gain in modifiers i.e 'gestures'. Bringing in multi-touch wasn't just difference for the sake of it.

      Tasks that require accuracy - hand-written notes, sketches, entering mathematical formulae- work better with a stylus. Not everyone uses their tablet for productivity tasks like these, but it is good to have the option.

      The Wacom tablet on my laptop hasn't rendered my mouse obsolete, nor has its gamepad or IR remote made its keyboard a waste of space.

    3. Eponymous Cowherd

      Re: Round and round....

      I think this has more to do with the availability of enabling technology.

      Resistive screens, which were all there were in the days of Palm and Windows Mobile work well with a stylus, but offer a poor touch experience. Capacitive screens were the reverse. The modern swipey touch interface is a consequence of the technology that enabled it (capacitive screens), not any great innovation on the part of Apple. They were merely the first to make an obvious use of a new technology.

      Now that Wacom/Samsung has produced the technology to enable accurate and pressure sensitive use of a stylus on a capacitive screen you will start to see these becoming more common on tablets (at least) as it does offer some distinct benefits over a touch-only interface. You now can have the best of both worlds.

      Samsung has been quite crafty in buying into Wacom. It means that they will be in pole position for what is likely to be the next big thing in portable computing, and Apple could be left with egg on its face as it tries to compete against pen enabled tablets or has to go crawling to Samsung for a licence.

      1. Mark .

        Re: Round and round....

        I agree - I'd add that another useful thing about resistive screens (which weren't actually that bad really - my resistive Nokia 5800 was fine with finger, and I think the difference between "no touch screen" and "touch screen" is far bigger than resistive vs capacitive, especially when you consider the former had some advantages of their own) was being able to use with gloves. I was interested to note Nokia advertising the Lumia 920 as having a capacitive screen that's sensitive enough to work with gloves, so I hope we'll get this feature back too.

        It's annoying that the myth of styluses being bad still hangs over us, and Samsung should be congratulated for taking the steps to challenge this. I hope we'll see their S Pen in more mainstream smaller devices like their Galaxy S series.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Round and round....

      No, while finger smearing is fine for the (younger) kiddies, the accuracy, control and versatility of a stylus has always been indispensable to dorky creative types... there was just a brief fad where Apple Inc's "creative types" didn't know that their shiny toys weren't really "tablets" at all... well not in the creative types' understanding of the term anyway. Nothing has changed really.

    5. Mage Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Round and round....


      The "holy grail" is a three way combined tablet and graphics screen.

      1) Touch

      2) Dumb stick

      3) Wacom stylus with precision pressure nib, buttons and eraser top. My Wacom tablet is so old it uses a 9 pin RS232 serial connection.

      We need 6" 3:1 so it fits pocket, Medium sized handy tablet (approx 9" / A6 in WS and 4:3) and A4 Clipboard sized and shaped.

      Also the 6" to 9" ones need to be cheap so you can have multiple "windows" and hand one so someone while you work on an other. Like a Padd.

      For designers / CAD it needs to be A3+ and at least 150 dpi visual and 600dpi, they might want a Puck with magnifying lamp, cross hairs and buttons built in. Very niche product.

      Other graphics tablets / pens never seem to have been as good as Wacom.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So not only were apple wrong about the stylus on a tablet, but with this deal it gives samsung some leverage over apples core arty/designer desktop/laptop market. Not to mention wacom probably own a whole stack of patents.

    I wonder if Samsung will continue to buy up shares until they own outright?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Exactly. The whole reason Wacom enjoy an effective monopoly in the stylus/tablet niche is their portfolio of patents. A beautiful big Samsung tablet incorporating a high quality display and nice stylus would be a joy. Unfortunately, that probably wouldn't do much for sales of Wacom's own eye-wateringly overpriced Cintiq line... so I can't imagine Samsung have a snowball's chance in hell of getting Wacom to license any such thing... controlling stake or takeover it is then. :D

  8. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
    Thumb Up


    I use a stylus (just a cheap one from Amazon that came in a deal with the case I got there, as the case also has a stylus/pen loop on it) with my Nexus 7 and much prefer it to direct finger use. More accurate, easier and less screen-trails. Plus it can more easily hit links etc without having to zoom in on the screen area (normally) than my fingertip can.

    Also less painful on the digit after an extended session of screen-poking (usually on games like Jetpack Joyride, Fruit Ninja and Bloons Tower Defense 5). Not that I waste time on such things, honest guv'nor ;)

  9. Jim 59


    or use a keyboard

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Or

      A keyboard might be better for creating ASCII art than traditional sketches.

      1. g e

        Re: Or

        and a mouse!

        why just carry two things when you can carry three

  10. WylieCoyoteUK
    Thumb Up


    Our engineers use android phones to clear breakdown calls, and finding a stylus that allows a customer to sign on a touch screen is quite difficult. most of them are not easy to use.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For average Joe, then no I'm sure a finger on a tablet or a mouse on a desktop is fine. For the artists and image editors you cannot beat the finesse and accruacy of a pen and tablet, I don't edit any of my photos without my tablet now the mouse just feels too lunky for anything more complex than clicking GUI buttons on dialogs.

  12. John Lilburne

    All I can say is that bought a wacom bamboo tablet for general computer use about 2 years ago and it has become my preferred pointing input device, and the joints on my index finger are no longer throbbing.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Yes, the slight decrease in the angle in comparison with using a mouse of the wrist makes a huge difference. I like the way I switch easily between absolute coordinates with the stylus and the relative coordinates of my fingers. My only gripe would be wishing to have a less sensitive mode for general desktop use: I often end selecting text in a URL link when I actually just want to click on it.

  13. Manny Bianco

    Apple didn't include a stylus... but

    ...they didn't stop you from using one. That's the point.

    You can choose to buy the stylus that works best for you, from a large range of third-party suppliers and manufacturers. Everyyone moans at the headphones you get free with an iPhone, and immediately replaces them with 'phones they want to use. It's the same with the stylus. How many people want to pay extra to get a stylus that doesn't suit their need?

    1. Mark .

      Re: Apple didn't include a stylus... but

      The problem is that styluses for capacitive screens tend to be bigger things with less precision. This is distinct to the pens now being seen in Galaxy Android products (as well as various Windows 8 tablets) that have finer points again (as well as also being pressure sensitive, I believe).

      And it wasn't just the lack of choice (after all, that was a problem with every capacitive screen until recently), but the claim that styluses were wrong, or the media view that branded any device with a stylus as "old fashioned".

  14. Fuzz

    back to the tablet PC

    To qualify as a windows tablet PC the device had to have an active digitiser. I'm guessing most of these were made by Wacom. The one on my Panasonic CF-18 is.

    Anybody whose only experience of using a stylus input is either a resistive screen or a capacitive stylus just have no reference as to how useful a stylus can be.

    When I'm using the CF-18 I use it in laptop mode and I use the stylus instead of a mouse, it's very quick and very accurate.

    The important differentiation between a digitizer like this and resistive or capacitive options is that the digitizer doesn't respond to your hand touching the screen. This means that for a tablet you can rest your palm on the screen as you would do when using paper and when in a laptop mode you don't have to contort your hand to keep stray fingers from the screen.

    The S pen gives you both capacitive input from your fingers and digitizer input from the pen so you get the best of both worlds. This is one thing that keeps me looking at the surface pro.

  15. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

    Stylus and Galaxy Camera?

    I've got a Galaxy Note mainly because of the stylus. I just bought a Galaxy camera (which is absolutely wonderful but I seem to be the only person in the country with one!), but can't find out if I can get a stylus to work with it (the Note's stylus doesn't). Does anyone know if the Galaxy Camera will work with some other stylus?

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Stylus and Galaxy Camera?

      I know that the Wacom Bamboo Stylus, designed and marketed primarily for the I-Pad works fine on my Samsung Wave phone and Galaxy 8.9

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: Stylus and Galaxy Camera?

        Thanks! I'll do some digging to find some more info on that.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stylus and Galaxy Camera?

      I have tried a few capacitative stylus options and so far, the best that I have found are the Applydea Maglus and the Justmobile AluPen.

      Both are really nice- the Maglus is probably less clumsy, but more expensive. Neither are as cheap as I'd have liked.

      Be aware that capacitative stylus tips are always going to be a bit approximate, and not a patch on a proper digitiser, and also that screen protectors attenuate the response somewhat, making it necessary to press harder (or stopping a more puny stylus from working at all, in one case).

      Hope that helps, food for thought and what have you.

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: Stylus and Galaxy Camera?

        Thanks, AC - all good information!

  16. g e

    History in the making

    Steve Jobs says styli are wrong

    Samsung brings out gadgets with a stylus

    Apple panics when popularity of styli is realised

    Apple brings out device(s) with stylus, hails it as a revolution

    Apple sues Samsung for copying their stylus idea

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: History in the making

      The Modbook tablet ( a 3rd party customised Macbook with a Wacom digitiser over the screen) was launched in 2007, and has since been updated. Unlike the Samsung devices, the Modbook runs full-fat Photoshop.

      1. mmeier

        Re: History in the making

        So does basically every Windows tablet or convertible. Depending on the complexity of the task and the money available one can choose anything from Atom to full-powered "desktop" core-i and from 2-16GB of memory.

    2. Stretch
      Thumb Up

      Re: History in the making

      Agree but i'm still going to say styluses.

      Gief a stylus again, some of us have sweat that can be used to etch PCB so bring back my stylus! Come back motorola A1000 you were the best phone I ever had.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: History in the making

        And in a hilarious act of trolling, Woz likes them.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: History in the making

      What a dumbo. Apple would never do that in a million years. More like:

      Apple bring out screen that requires no touch but finger/mind manipulation

      Samsung panics and calls a design meeting

      Samsung designers bring in designs that look exactly like Apple's products but they don't admit it

      Exec goes, good idea

      Samsung brings out a product that looks/feels/acts the same as Apple's

      Go figure.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stylus = so retro. What next a mouse and rear view mirrors, kitchen sink add-on... fail.

    1. MissingSecurity

      You remind me of...

      that ..."I'm a Creative guy".

      Anyway...Kudos for the Stylist, Note 10.1 has it and I use it all the time for SNote at work.

    2. the-it-slayer

      ...and Samsung have lost all the cash already in that 5% stake when they only sell less than 10,000 of things and Wacom crash.

  18. Bert 1

    Inconsistent behaviour will kill it

    I'm ambivalent to the Samsung stylus. Just annoyed that it works differently to the finger.

    In Tifkam mode the finger swipes the screen across, whereas the stylus selects and then shuffles the tiles.

    Numerous other examples - in a browser the finger scrolls and the stylus highlights the selection.

    This could be just Windows 8, or it could be just Samsung, but if an interface is this frustrating it's clearly wrong.

  19. BigAndos


    User interfaces reached their peak in the early 80s with the Datel lightpen on ZX Spectrum.

    1. Anonymous Coward 15
      Thumb Up

      Re: Humbug!

      On the CPC464 there was a version with the software in ROM.

  20. 100113.1537

    Work or play?

    I think we are back to what are you doing with it!

    For play (that is, entertainment via browsing and games) the finger works fine in tablets and you don't have to keep track of where your stylus is. For work, when you have a lot of information in the screen and/or need some precision on what you are doing, then a stylus gives you that precision.

    Remember, Jobs only went anti-stylus after the Apple Newton died in its infancy (it was beaten up by Palm among others which proved to be extremely popular using a very basic stylus). Yes, smartphones have since killed Palm and the other PDAs, but not because they didn't use a stylus and not for a long time.

  21. mmeier

    No stylus - no business

    I have tried hard to like the finger based UIs and failed. Asides from getting the idea that the real business plan was "sell the hardware cheap, make a killing on the cleaning tools" I have found many websites, mostly forums, to be at least difficult to use with either finger of capacitive stylus. It was always either

    a) Increase font size so I can hit the forum entry reliably loosing (already scarce) screen real estate

    b) Zoom - select - Unzoom and clean the screen every hour to keep it readable

    So I am back to where I was since 2003 - Induktive digitizer (WACOM or NTrig) and a stylus. No zooms, no need to enlarge the font size to 200+ percent.

    In addition to this the stylus has a number of additional benefits:

    + Quick note taking simply by writing into MS-Journals/OneNote/SNote without Handwriting-Recognition

    + Limited writing into forums etc. WITH Handwriting-Recognition

    + Fine lines drafting/drawing during discussions about UI etc.

    + Commenting on documents (PDF, MS-Office) with handwritten notes

    Since a tablet takes a lot less place than a net/notebook and has no "Chinese Wall" between me and the people I talk to handwritting is a lot more "accepted" on the table. And the "clean" state of a stylus-based tablet makes it more acceptable to others, just like a piece of paper / legal pad that gets swapped around the table with everybody adding notes/comments

    And having used both "capacitiy styli" (for iPad and Iconia A500) and the real things (for Note 10.1, Thinkpad Tablet 1 and half a dozend tablet pc) - one is a thick way crayon and the other is a finely honed pencil

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Solutiony Solutions

    "...the pen solution company [Wacom]..."

    Who'd want a soluble pen?

  23. Alienrat

    I generally use the iPad for day to day stuff. I also used to use a windows tablet PC. I love the touch interface in the iPad and the fact that it works so well by hand. I don't love that you can't use a pen in any sensible way for writing and drawing - I am not an artist, I am a software engineer but my most use tool is a pad of paper.

    I used to love the pen system on the tabletPC, and that I could write and draw on it, like the pad but then search for things. I did most of my open university using it but using windows with a pen was not a lot of fun in general.

    A system that combines both of those would be fantastic. The note 10.1 seems quite close but not cigar, but I will probably get one anyway. Would certainly be interested to see what the surface was like.

  24. David Glasgow
    Paris Hilton

    My finger..... TIRED.

    Paris blah blah blah.

  25. sjsmoto


    I use a Rocketfish stylus with my iPod Touch because it's easier for me to tap some of the tiny icons that way. It also works with Android kit.

  26. mmeier

    Note / Note 2 and either the integrated SPen or any other pen for WACOM-based tablet pc. Some are the size, feel and use of a ballpoint pen and should work nicely

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    You people talking about using it for hand writing notes / annotations or worse yet actually using it for text input must have far better handwriting than I do. I had decent handwriting as a kid when I was taught it in school, but it has atrophied since I rarely write anything longer than a sentence or two for the past 20 years.

    I can see it for the types of tasks (drafting, photo editing, etc.) that have historically been done with Wacon digitizers, but I don't see the appeal otherwise. I guess by including it rather than making it an option Samsung wants to differentiate itself, which is fine, and it would add less than a dollar to the price.

    I can't help thinking that if Apple had done it, the haters would have said Apple was hoping they'd lose their iStylus and be forced to buy another from Apple for $29.99 :)

    1. mmeier

      Re: Handwriting

      Handwriting get's better with use :) Honestly, mine had atrophied just as yours did but since using penables I has improved a lot back to at least school standards. Handwriting-recognition actually is a nice teacher. My spelling OTOH - well I love spell checkers :)

      And the moder Win8 integrated Handwriting-recognition is quite capabel Win7 ist good if you use the "formular/predefined grid" mode, both are a better than the Note 10.1. The option to do a "batch recognition" (write freehand than tell MS Journal "recognize" after it is done coupled with a good spellchecker helps as well

  28. cr34t0r
    Thumb Up

    only 5%?

    they're obviously not very confident in their move ;-)

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