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You are here: MacNN Forums > News > Mac News > Editorial: All Stylus, No Surface

Editorial: All Stylus, No Surface
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NewsPoster
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Sep 10, 2015, 04:38 PM
 
Of course you can't ever know what someone who has died would think of anything, but sometimes you can guess. This week, a lot of people are guessing that Steve Jobs would be turning in his grave, but we're going to say no to that. He wouldn't. We think he'd agree with the new Apple Pencil stylus -- and we know we do.

We also have some thoughts about the other issue of the week, which is the claim that the new iPad Pro Smart Keyboard is exactly the same as Microsoft's Surface. Let us work up to that one, though.



For the business with the stylus is so straightforward as make us a little surprised that it's come up. Not very surprised: we remember the Steve Jobs cracks about using a stylus just as well as anyone else. Plus, we remember showing people our iPhones back in 2007 when they would ask where the stylus was, and we'd roll our eyes.

Only, here's the thing. Being rogueishly handsome as we are takes some effort: we have to maintain this look, and that means having mirrors. We've got a big full length one on the wall in our hallway, and all day long we carry one around in our iPad bag. We couldn't carry that wall one around with us, and the tiny hand one wouldn't be any good hanging on our wall.

They're both mirrors, they work precisely the same way, and they also reflect us in exactly the same glory, but one is right for one job, one is right for the other. That's Pencil vs fingers. Having to use a stylus to make an inadequate smartphone function is one thing, using an art drawing tool on a large canvas is another.

Steve Jobs did have that habit and/or ability to say what he needed to get what he wanted. So, for instance, he famously claimed that Americans were no longer reading -- and then he simply erased the memory of that comment when he announced the iBookstore. Conceivably, he was doing the same thing with the stylus comment, unquestionably he was promoting the unique selling point of the iPhone. We just believe that he was telling exactly the truth he saw: a stylus on an iPhone would mean the phone was a failure. This is because the stylus is a wretched tool: it puts a barrier between you and the screen, plus of course you lose them.

A pencil is genuinely different. It isn't a control for coping with deficiencies with smartphone screens, it is an implement for artists.

On the Surface

There is also an idea this week that the iPad Pro is based on Microsoft's Surface. Don't make us laugh about that: the iPad Pro is based on the iPad, and just about everything else is based on the iPad too. Now, the screen case that doubles as a keyboard, that does remind us of the Surface. The Surface's keyboard case is the best thing about that machine, even though it isn't something you'd expect to use a gigantic amount.



We don't know yet, can't know yet, and won't know for some weeks, whether it's the same with the iPad Pro's keyboard case, but there is at least a chance that it will not. For one of the few things Apple said about the keyboard was that it uses the same new key design as the latest MacBook, and we adore that one -- but not everybody does.

There's an engineering and design phrase that goes "form follows function." It means that you start with what you want something to do, and that the look of it speaks for itself. Apple doesn't tend to listen to this phrase, it just piles on ahead and designs what it wants. However, given the job that the keyboard needs to do, we're not sure there is much Apple could do that was different to Microsoft, and we are certain that we couldn't think of a way.

Maybe Apple got to the same conclusions as Microsoft through many stages of conscious thought and planning, or maybe they saw it on a Surface and thought yes, we're having that. The one thing we can be certain about this issue is that the keyboard was a good idea on the Surface.

-- William Gallagher (@WGallagher)
( Last edited by NewsPoster; Sep 17, 2015 at 01:55 AM. )
     
Makosuke
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Sep 10, 2015, 05:34 PM
 
I really can't believe anybody would bring the old stylus quote up as anything other than a joke, but then mainstream coverage of technology *is* a joke, so it probably shouldn't be surprising.

Leaving aside that Steve himself changed course drastically all the time, and the 8-year-gap between then and now, anyone who's able to understand even the vaguest notion of context gets that Steve was saying a phone (or tablet, for that matter) that *requires* a stylus is terrible. Such was the state of things in 2007, but people have probably forgotten classic PDAs and the Nintendo DS by now. A precise, pressure-sensitive drawing tool, on the other hand, was then and is still a valuable tool for specific use cases. There's a reason Wacom is still successful.
     
Charles Martin
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Sep 10, 2015, 06:09 PM
 
Makosuke: check out the "One More Thing" episode this week where I exactly channel you on this very sentiment. You are, of course, completely correct.
Charles Martin
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azrich
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Sep 10, 2015, 10:41 PM
 
Wasn't that comment by Steve about using a stylus for a phone?
     
quebit
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Sep 11, 2015, 01:02 AM
 
Who wrote this drivel? It's impossible to read .... it's got so many grammar mistakes and contextual jumps, you just can't make sense of anything. I think the editors should put all the poetry and hyperbole aside, and actually write in simple and coherent structures. I just gave up after the third paragraph ..... Steve Jobs would never finish reading the second paragraph !!!!
     
MarkTime
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Sep 11, 2015, 02:57 AM
 
In the context of history, the Palm Pilot had a stylus, and it was actually pretty great.

But, Apple's idea to remove the stylus with the advent of capacitive touch, was also great.

Nobody wanted a stylus, they just feared touching the screen, if you can believe that today! LOL, but it's true, they were sure fingerprints would be a severe issue.

Steve called it right, but now we need a stylus - for drawing apps.

I wouldn't want a stylus for precision input because the OS was never optimized for touch - trying to touch the screen on a surface is miserable because of all the programs and UI elements that are too small for the finger press. In Windows 10 they have some screens and some functionality that are designed for touch, and its much appreciated when they do. They'll get it right in a few more years.

But yes - for drawing apps and some precision input, even in office apps - the stylus is a great improvement. This is an iPad - not a cellphone.
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Sep 11, 2015, 08:15 AM
 
Quebit, it's written to the 11th grade level, where most normal editorials are written to the seventh - so that can be a bit jarring. It's also written by someone from the UK, so the pacing may be different than you're used to.

It's not AP/Chicago style, like a news item, and it's fine.
     
Oneota
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Sep 11, 2015, 09:09 AM
 
It most certainly is not written to the 11th grade level. It may have been written by an 11th grader, but it's an exceedingly poorly-written piece. Sorry to be blunt, but it's the truth.
"Yields a falsehood when preceded by its quotation" yields a falsehood when preceded by its quotation.
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Sep 11, 2015, 09:46 AM
 
Not the truth, your opinion, and I'm sorry you feel that way.

Blunt is always fine. Never apologize for that.

If anybody else has issues with the style of the editorial, feel free to email me at [email protected] for calm, rational discussion, if merited. Style commentary posted in the comments will be deleted.
( Last edited by Mike Wuerthele; Sep 11, 2015 at 09:57 AM. )
     
   
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