Samsung, Wacom and the S-Pen: The birth of the Galaxy Note

News Paul Briden 16:55, 16 Apr 2013

With Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 on the way, Know Your Mobile spoke to Wacom, the company behind its unique S-Pen stylus

Wacom is a name you might have noticed popping up recently in the mobile space, specifically in discussions of Samsung’s Galaxy Note range of devices. The company specialises in stylus digitiser technology and in close co-operation with Samsung managed to pioneer the most compelling stylus-driven mobile product line-up to date.

The Japanese company has been in business for a very long time, however, and has been a well-known market leader for a specific type of specialist product for over 10 years.

That product is the Graphics Tablet, a slab-like device which precedes the modern tablet computer as we know it today.

It’s a peripheral piece of hardware which often connects to a PC or Mac via a USB cable and is primarily aimed at designers and people in similar creative roles. It allows you to draw onto the tablet surface with a stylus and have whatever you draw appear within a drawing program (such as Photoshop) on the computer screen. Some more advanced models in recent years have incorporated a display into the device, allowing you to draw in a more direct fashion.

It’s this level of experience and expertise which caused Samsung to partner with Wacom for its Galaxy Note devices: a range of Android tablets and smartphones equipped with Wacom digitisers and S-Pen styluses for greater precision and control.

While many critics were initially sceptical of the large form-factor phone and stylus combo, the Galaxy Note, Galaxy Note 2 and their stablemates have proven a runaway success.

Know Your Mobile spoke to Masahiko Yamada, president of Wacom to find out more about its working relationship with Samsung.

He revealed that Wacom had previously been in talks with a number of mobile manufacturers about entering the mobile space, but found that Samsung in particular had a ‘very similar understanding’ of stylus technology to the company’s own approach.

That approach, he said, centers on providing ‘something for consumers in their everyday life’.

‘We had a similar mindset, a similar vision,’ added Masahiko. He said that both Samsung and Wacom viewed the use of styluses in mobile devices as focusing on creativity and content production as opposed to the content consumption typical of touch-based devices without styluses.

A mutual appreciation of the limitations of touch technology appears to have been a catalyst for both companies to join forces.

‘You cannot write with a finger,’ said Masahiko, ‘Touch does great things for control such as zoom and navigation, but when you try to write something, touch doesn’t work.’

Masahiko also considers Samsung to have been uniquely positioned to develop the Note concept: ‘Samsung’s the only one with enough clout to commit to the product,’ he said.

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No thanks to Apple, stylus tech has stagnated for a long time.

sPen is awesome. I have two iPads at home and Apple is clearly is missing out here.
Sure several years ago Steve Job's comments about fingers as styluses were relevant, but the technology moves on and tablets are now prime for a pen support.
Apple folks are no dummies and of course they get this as well.
Though knowing what has to be done and actually doing it are not always hand in hand so hopefully they don't miss the boat like the blackberry when Rim knew what had to be done and yet still managed to royally screw everything up.

How did apple stagnate the Stylus? Wacom is the one that makes these devices possible. Finger touch devices usually have to have a very wide gird layout or your finger would make things go all weird. So it was either Pen or finger for a long time because of technical limitations and PRICE. The cheapest Note is $650 when not subsidized. Why do you think that is?

There is nothing technically new with Stylus/Wacom pens - I have been using it with tablets and Window Phone Edition PDAs for ten years, and missed it since multi-touch came to dominante the market.
Almost no one, no blog author or commentators appreciates a fundamental advantage of WACOM (active digitizer): You can hover over the screen and therefore move your pointer to any place without sending a command (i.e. "clicking". This allows for features like "mouse over". The precision is amazing: you now what you are clicking, selecting before you execute. And pressure sensitive drawing is awesome. But most of all:
Only Neanderthalers write with fingers...

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