Apple Could Include Stylus with Tablet PC, Suggests Patent Application
Apple's much-rumored tablet PC could include a stylus for
writing in addition to a touchscreen interface, according to both blogosphere
rumors and a patent application filed by Apple.
As uncovered by blogs such as Apple
Insider, Apple's patent application (20090279783)
describes an "ink manager [that] interfaces between a pen-based input device,
one or more applications (pen-aware or not) and one or more handwriting
recognition engines executing on the computer system."
Originally filed on July 17, the patent application
references previous attempts at creating a pen-based input system, particularly
Pen Services for Windows 95 and Apple's own Newton project, and suggest "a need
exists for improving the way in which ink data is organized so as to facilitate
the recognition process and also to improve the association of ink data to
particular data entry fields." A section of the application, Background of the
Invention, makes frequent references to a tablet as both the input and output
medium for such a pen-based system.
The patent under discussion would make such improvements
through recognizing written phrases, as opposed to strokes, as a "suitable unit
of data," and through steps that would let the computer's system recognize ink
data more accurately.
Media and analysts have frequently linked many of Apple's
recent applications to the development of the rumored tablet PC. A similar
incident occurred in October, when
many of the blogs that cover Apple noted a patent application filed in June 2009
for a touchscreen interface.
patent application described a device whose screen could be manipulated by
the user's fingers and palms, theoretically allowing for a broad range of
activities including typing or drawing. The device's underlying infrastructure
would facilitate the sensing of various hand configurations, and offer feedback
without necessarily responding to a stray hand or finger touching the
If both the touchscreen patent application and this newly uncovered stylus application both describe technologies being integrated into an Apple tablet, then the device in question will have a much more versatile interface than the one currently operating on Apple's iPhone or iPod Touch.
Despite Apple's continual refusals to acknowledge the tablet
PC's existence, media and analysts nonetheless all but expect the company to
debut the device sometime in 2010. This heightened sense of expectation is
largely attributable to leaks from Apple's ostensible partners in the
At the end of October, reports emerged that Bill Keller, an
executive editor at The New York Times, had referred to "the impending Apple
slate" during an off-the-record meeting with staff at TheTimesCenter in New
transcript of his remarks promptly appeared on the Website of the Nieman
Journalism Lab, and the media seized on the word "slate" as synonymous with "tablet PC."
Adding fuel to that assumption were previous media reports,
some coming from as far away as Australia, that Apple had approached various
publishing houses to discuss porting their content onto a tablet PC. A
report in the Sydney Morning Herald included executives hinting that they
had discussed that very thing with Apple officials.
Seeking to fill the vacuum of official information surrounding the tablet PC, various analysts have hypothesized about the device's possible features. RBC Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky suggested in an October research report that the tablet would retail for an estimated $599-$799, and include "a 7- to 10-inch touchscreen, Wi-Fi, 16GB/32GB memory, etc."
Abramsky also suggested that the device could potentially "be
tethered to an iPhone or incorporate an integrated 3G module for connectivity
(and possibly be carrier-subsidized)." Those ideas were complemented in many
ways by Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, who
predicted a similar price-point and theorized that an Apple tablet PC could run
either a modified version of the Mac OS X or else the iPhone OS.
Comments from Apple's potential partners have been mirrored
by rumors allegedly originating from inside Cupertino itself. A Wall Street
Journal story in August suggested that not only was Steve Jobs devoting the
majority of his attention to the development of a tablet PC, but that he had
killed previous versions of the device due to concerns about battery life and
In a rare move, Jobs responded to the Journal with an e-mail stating that "most of your information is incorrect." The CEO, who returned to full-time duties at Apple this fall after spending most of 2009 on medical leave for a still-undisclosed condition, apparently declined to elaborate on how the Journal's story had erred-perhaps because he was already back to working on a certain well-publicized piece of vaporware.
Microsoft has also been developing its own touchscreen-based device, rumors suggest, named Courier. Redmond's tablet/booklet PC will supposedly run on Windows 7 and let users both run applications and scrawl notes with a specialized pen. When contacted by eWEEK concerning the scuttlebutt, however, a Microsoft spokesperson offered only that "Microsoft does not comment on rumors or speculative news stories."