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    December 3, 2015

    Opinion: Why Tim Cook was wrong about the Apple Pencil

    tim cook

    There’s something to be said about Apple’s marketing division.

    All too often, the men and women behind Apple’s campaigns are more responsible for shaping the future of tech than the men and women in charge of designing and manufacturing the company’s products. While the iPod and iPhone were no doubt a revelation when they were first introduced, the company had the momentum created by titans such as Steve Jobs to help each product find its market.

    The problem with Tim Cook‘s comment is that such a statement is firmly rooted in mentality best suited for the year 2007.

    In the years since Jobs’ passing, Apple has largely acted as defensively; creating an iPad Mini to beat 8″ Android competition, introducing slow and incremental updates to iOS, and, most recently, unveiling the iPad Pro.

    Alongside the introduction of the iPad Pro, Apple made a divisive move; to introduce the Apple Pencil – an accessory designed to be used with the top-end tablet.

    To consider how much of an internal revolution this is for the company, let’s consider that the same titan who made the iPod and iPhone a success famously forbade the production of a stylus, and instead optimized iOS for touch.

    Years after his passing, we are now (almost) able to purchase the Apple Pencil – just the kind of accessory Jobs first forbade. Within weeks of its launch, Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, went on the defensive – citing that the Apple Pencil is more than ‘just a stylus’. Cook went on to say:

    “œWell, we didn‘t really do a stylus, we did a Pencil. The traditional stylus is fat, it has really bad latency so you‘re sketching here and it‘s filling the line in somewhere behind. You can‘t sketch with something like that, you need something that mimics the look and feel of the pencil itself or you‘re not going to replace it. We‘re not trying to replace finger touch, we‘re complementing it with the Pencil.“

    The problem with Cook‘s comment is that such a statement is firmly rooted in mentality best suited for the year 2007. Let‘s face it; until recently, styli weren‘t anything to care about. Tim Cook is right; at one stage, styli were horrible, fat, and prone to terrible latency.

    Yet, however, let‘s fast forward a few years and remember when Apple introduced the iPad ““ and, alongside it, third party manufacturers produced a plethora of stylus-styled accessories which, despite not being the purpose the iOS ecosystem was designed, worked wonderfully.

    Then, Microsoft came along with the Surface, and later the Surface Pro models ““ which are arguably geared to be used alongside the accompanying Surface Pen, or as it‘s now formally known, the Microsoft Pen. Each model Surface has seen consistent praise for it‘s accompanying Pen ““ and, as a Surface Pro 3 owner myself, I can vouch for this. There are few better experiences than writing on a Surface Pro out in the field.

    Tim Cook is right; at one stage, styli were horrible, fat, and prone to terrible latency.

    The two points I seek to make here are that, firstly, iOS was never designed to complement a stylus ““ and, secondly, that Apple has produced nothing more than a stylus with the introduction of an Apple Pencil.

    Naturally, the logic follows that Tim Cook would inherently dub the Apple Pencil as “˜more‘ than a stylus in an effort to drive home marketing. Yet, I‘d argue the Apple Pencil does little at all to break free of the stylus genre.

    With the Surface Pen, one holds an acutely crafted instrument in their hand that mimics an actual pen. There are three buttons ““ one along the length of the pen, and another on the top, which can be used to either select, delete, or activate OneNote respectively. Further, a Surface Pro accommodates the Pen by offering a neat port to store it in when not in use.

    In comparison, we have the Apple Pencil. A bland, white piece of Apple marketing strategy, the Apple Pencil is firmly an accessory which is tacked on to a larger iPad. Beyond the ability to make use of its fine point, the Apple Pencil introduces nothing new that third party styli haven‘t ““ and before you ask, I‘m not going to even mention the horrendous charging design Apple came up with using Lightning connectivity.

    Tim Cook

    Seriously, Apple?

    My point is, of these two styli, the former breaks more moulds than the latter. The Surface Pen is an integral part of the Surface experience, which works amicably throughout Windows, and can be used to write words into text. The Apple Pencil, however, shares no outward integration with iOS in the same manner and is purely a creative tool.

    While Tim Cook might be right in positing that the Pencil is designed to complement touch, he‘s wrong on every other count. Styli aren‘t fat nor latent; they‘re creative tools that, whether Apple admits it or not, is what the company has produced; and, indeed, the company has proceeded to produce a lazy product that would leave Jobs himself turning in his grave. Were the Apple Pencil “˜more‘ than just a stylus, the product would arguably resemble something like the Surface Pen.

    At least, however, Microsoft is more open to admit what the Surface Pen really is.

     

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