Since writing the first installment of this commentary, I’ve been pondering precisely how to organize and present my thoughts. It seems logical to start with Wacom although, ironically, their dual mode digitizer is less well known to me than N-trig’s. So I’m going to keep my present comments brief, at least until I think I have something more definitive to say about Wacom.
Wacom’s pen digitizing technology should be familiar to all except possibly the most recent tablet owners. When Microsoft formalized the tabletPC as a distinct product back in 2001, Wacom was the overwhelming technology supplier of choice (FinePoint probably being the other major supplier), and there was good reason for that because Wacom’s pen and digitizer provided an unparalleled inking experience with excellent positional accuracy, smooth, even pressure response and no need to put a battery in the pen. Over the years, Wacom has maintained the quality of their inking experience through several generations of tabletPCs.
Then came touch and the seemingly simple desire to combine the existing inking capability that was so fundamental to our tablet experience with this new input functionality. Except it hasn’t turned out to be so simple! We’ll talk about N-trig in subsequent installments, but N-trig’s appearance on Dell’s Latitude XT (late 2007) started the debate. Judging from discussions in the blogosphere, most people felt that Wacom was “better” than N-trig.
So finally, we come to what I think is a pivotal issue in the Wacom versus N-trig debate; how well does either company’s dual digitizer perform? In exploring this, two related questions immediately occur to me: Is combining pen and touch as simple as it first seems? And, when people say that “Wacom is better,” are they really only thinking about Wacom’s inking, and not about Wacom’s dual digitizer as a whole? More to come in future installments, but feel free to weigh in with your thoughts now!