New tablet devices feature touch as the primary input means. For simple apps, such as reading, movies, games and more, Apple has proven that touch is indeed the perfect user interface.
In this article, I will make the case that there are enterprise applications where the pen makes most sense.
Greg, you may say, you are a pen input guy. You have been working in pen computing for 19 years. You have 10 issued patents in the pen input space. Mi-Co was started as a pen input company – of course this is what YOU would say!
Let me say, just because I have experience in the pen computing world, it doesn’t mean I dismiss other input options. I see the ease with which my 4 year old picks up the touch screen apps on my Android phone or his grandfather’s iPad. (He loves Angry Birds and Pandora. He even has his own Curious George channel on Pandora on my phone.) Voice driven user interfaces for airline reservation systems, credit card customer service via voice recognition and voice synthesis and hands-free dialing are now successful. I can type faster than I can write!
Certain enterprise applications require pen input. Think of the simple case of note-taking. In environments where keyboarding away during a meeting is not acceptable, the pen is still the most prevalent note-taking means. For a salesperson, it just makes sense to automatically capture notes on a thin tablet and immediately populate a google doc or a CRM system like salesforce.com. The best sales people track their activity and have history to refer to readily.
Instantly populating a CRM with sales call information is the best way to instantly keep a record of activities. What alternative is there? Touch screen typing is too slow, keyboard typing is considered rude in some circles, and speech is not an option – you can’t dictate notes while listening or conversing!
What will continue to drive the attractiveness of the stylus as a desired input means for some applications is information density. With a stylus being a higher resolution pointing device, more information can be accessed or recorded with a pen than with the finger in a mobile scenario. On a form, this amounts to more fields being viewed or activated. For example, our customers at Sutter Health and at Duke Cancer Care Research Program experience this phenomenon all of the time in data collection applications for patient care, disease registries and clinical trials. In fact, soon we will release the results of a scientific study conducted at Duke formally comparing iPad to digital pen and Windows Tablet PC with stylus for an oncology case report form application. Here is a quick preview of the results – iPad was least preferred out of these alternatives for this application.
Overall – the best input means for the job depends on the use case. If the number of fields or screens is relatively small – by all means a touch interface may make most sense. In some healthcare applications and compliance inspection applications, however, we at Mi-Co have found the pen to be mightier than the finger.