HTC Flyer Android Tablet Boldly Bets on Stylus

HTC is making a big bet that customers will endorse the company's Flyer tablet even though one of its input selling points is a stylus. Analysts are skeptical.

HTC's Flyer Android tablet stood out from the pack of tablet launched at Mobile World Congress last week for a few reasons, not the least of which was the fact that the device is accessible though touch gestures and a capacitive stylus pen.

That's right; the stylus, a salient feature in Microsoft tablets that failed in the past, is back for another go-round.

HTP Chief Innovation Officer Horace Luke, who was responsible for the stylus, told the New York Times the inclusion of the digital pen is no novelty, noting that it was geared to effort to differentiate from other Android tablets.

Indeed, the Flyer, which will run a hybrid Android 2.4 build on a 7-inch screen powered by a 1.5GHz processor, will contend with the Android 3.0-based Motorola Xoom, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and other tablets this year.

Stylus activity on the Flyer will be supported by HTC's new Scribe technology. For example, a user can write notes in the margin of Websites or a caption on a taken photo and tap the screen to send the page and notes to contacts or social networks such as Facebook.

"There are certain things that are natural about the way we write and collect information," Luke said. "Not everyone knows how to type, but the second you pick up a pencil, you start scribbling."

Really? Can anyone really imagine anyone who would buy a tablet with such high-tech software, applications and other doo-dads and perks and not know how to type?

It seems almost unfathomable in today's tech-savvy world, where first adopters leapt to grab Apple's iPads without the benefit of thorough testing the recycled form factor.

Analysts are decidedly none-too-bullish on tablets with styluses living in a touch-gesture world.

"I give HTC credit for trying something different, but I am skeptical that consumers will buy into it," Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi told eWEEK. "There are many iPad users that use apps like Penultimate with capacitive pens so there is certainly a market for it but I would not necessarily make it the selling point."

Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps has some empirical data to support Milanesi's sentiment.

Epps said that in a survey of 4,500 U.S. consumers taken online in January 2011 only 10 percent of respondents said they considered a stylus/pen as part of their consideration for shopping for a tablet.

HTC may have a bigger problem than the pen: brand recognition in the United States. While HTC has enjoyed significant growth selling Android smarpthones, this is the company's first stab at tablets.