Wacom Inkling


2 of 5 stars
What’s this?

Steve Jobs famously said about iPad competitors that “If you see a stylus, they blew it,” alluding to his own belief that pen-based computing is a non-starter for the vast majority of users. Longstanding pen-and-tablet hardware manufacturer Wacom has a new product called Inkling (not to be confused with the textbook app platform) that suggests perhaps that computer-based pens might do better.

Wacom Inkling

Inkling is a combination of a proprietary pen and a sensor that clips onto the top of any sheet of paper. The pen is used like any other pen (it’s even filled with ink) and the sensor captures the marks and strokes in digital form. When the drawing is complete, the user hooks up the sensor to the computer (inelegantly, a USB cable is required), the strokes can be translated into raster or vector art. The high-production value demonstration video makes it look very smooth, though videos like this always do. If the final, shipping product is able to produce faithfully rendered vector files, though, I’ll be impressed, even if I remain skeptical that this product really makes much sense for many people. Inkling ships in September so we’ll see. Find out more here.



  1. I’m a fan of Wacom — use an intuosa all day long, everyday. But I’m not so sure about this…and I based my opinion on the use of a somewhat similar product called Live Scribe. http://www.livescribe.com/en-us/

    It has been around several years, but unlike this product, it uses a proprietary paper (in the form of little note pads) rather than the sensor.

    They first tried to market it as a business productivity tool, but didn’t seem to have much early luck with business users or geeks. They switched gears and I think have been more successful in marketing it to students (and parents) as a study and note-taking tool.

    They’ve added some pretty cool features during that time, little icons on the paper serve as an interface to do things like turn on an audio recorder that’s in the pen. More recently, they’ve added some upload features that integrate notes and recordings nicely with Evernote, a smart tie-in for them to slowly try to get back into a business market.

    They, too, have a means to record and display an animated version of one’s notes (sketches, or drawings). They call them “pencasts” and you can see some examples on their website. Unlike Wacom, they are not marketing this as a drawing tool, more as a productivity or business tool. They, too, have a clunky USB way of uploading your notes. Oh, there’s also a third-party software that integrates into their software and turns your hand-written notes into text — works fairly well. I can’t recommend the product as I found it to be more novelty that work tool. However, at some point, I’m going to give it a second chance.

  2. As someone who has been hands on with tablet/slate form factors since the days of the GRiDPAD, i think that Job’s comment is classic Steve turning lemons into lemonade.

    Assuming no price and/or performance drawback, would users really be so poorly served by an iPad that had touch and an active stylus digitizer (such as the Asus AP121)? As a user of both systems I can honestly say that if the iPad had an active digitizer (a la Wacom) I would get much more value out of the iPad.

    As for the new Wacom Inkling, I have been using the Adapx Capturx system which is built out on the same basic platform as the LiveScribe (Anoto) and find that it is a great way to think on paper and integrate that work into my digital workflow. Not perfect, but again a good compliment.

    Bottom line; pick the right tool for the task at hand. If all you have is an iPad, everything looks like a finger.

  3. Touch is great for navigating, but terrible for the fundamental creation activities like writing, drawing, highlighting, clipping. Apple’s focus is on content consumption—not creation. Some day a tool will come along that will make mobile creation a reality.

  4. @Andrew – The notion that Apple’s focus is on content consumption rather than creation is a myth. Note the four New Yorker covers created on the iPad using Brushes (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id363590649?mt=8) or thousands of other examples of work created, edited, scored or invented on iPads.’

    For many people, the iPad is a device for watching, listening and reading. Yet for others, it is a tool for working, creating and managing.

    I feel certain better tools for creation will come along — and no doubt, the iPad will evolve — but creators don’t sit around and wait for the perfect tool before they start creating.

  5. @Rex—People are finding ways to be productive on iPads, but I think the app creators behind Penultimate, Noteshelf, ArtRage, Brushes and all the others deserve more of that credit than Apple.

    Creators won’t wait for the perfect tool, but they will choose the best one on hand. There are a number of people who put up with tools like this Wacom Inkling, fat capacitive styluses, the XO stylus, and any of the 10+ other Kickstarter-funded stylus projects, but by far most people still prefer working with pen and paper—it’s not even a contest (Bic sells 30 million pens every day!). The average person needs a simple, precise solution that just works before we’ll see any widespread adoption.

    I see the New Yorker covers as the first drips from the fire hose. We’re only at the beginning of what it means to create in a mobile & connected world.


  6. @Andrew – re: “The average person needs a simple, precise solution that just works before we’ll see any widespread adoption.”

    The average person needs a Bic pen, or better, a #2 pencil.

    My response was to one statement you made that is wrong: that Apple’s focus was consumption rather than creation. If that was their focus, they would have added an eBook reader and browser to a device that allows one to listen to music and watch video. But they created a platform, without which, those apps you’ve mentioned would be nothing more than hand shadows.

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