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Apple patent points to tablet with pen support

updated 08:00 am EST, Thu November 12, 2009

Apple patent hints tablet not finger-only

Apple's rumored tablet may have the option of a pen for input, a US patent filing published today suggests. The application for a patent on getting ink data from "pen-aware computer systems" shows an example device with slight interface cues from the Newton, such as the bottom icon tray, but with a significantly different design and a different engine. Apple in the description makes clear that the technology would be an improvement on the writing systems implemented in the defunct PDA.

The system mentioned in the patent would revolve around "ink phrases" to capture handwriting recognition. Instead of simply recognizing each individual pen stroke and piecing together the intended words, the approach collects multiple strokes into phrases that are considered all at once. The invention would better recognize writing, by putting the strokes into the context of other data, as well as catch input that doesn't neatly fit data fields.

A proximity system either in the tablet or the pen could be key to the system as it would recognize when the pen has been lifted from the surface to move on to the next word. The system would underpin every app on the tablet platform and remove the burden from apps of having to intercept and decipher pen strokes themselves.

As with many patents, the application has yet to be granted and isn't necessarily an indicator that Apple plans to create a tablet with pen support. The description could potentially apply to an updated version of Inkwell for Mac OS X, and Apple has since 2007 said it prefers pen-free, multi-touch input. However, the patent was originally filed in July of this year and suggests the company is still interested in possibilities for pen computing.

By Electronista Staff
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  1. Feathers

    Grizzled Veteran

    Joined: Oct 1999


    Eat up Martha!

    Let the old Newton jokes commence!

  1. danviento

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Dec 2005


    Not so funny?

    Perhaps someone else can also see the pen interface as useful for graphics artists, architects, engineers, etc.

    I know they're showing a smaller interface in the patent, instead of a desktop or table-top design, but I and at least 100 people at my company would love to work in CAD with a pen instead of a mouse.

  1. psdenno

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: May 2003


    Son of Newton

    The handwriting recognition feature on my Newton still amazes me. Last Century technology updated in a New Millennium Apple device - what could be better?

  1. Triath.lon

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Sep 2007


    Welcome addition

    I would love to have a grown-up version of my iPhone coupled together with pen recognition. While handwriting on my computers isn't that essential, being able to draw on my apple tablet would be very nice.

    Anyhow, i think at this point my expectations for the upcoming device are sky high, i'm preparing myself for a rude awakening :)

  1. charlituna

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Sep 2009


    i suspect

    that this filing is related to the whole IpodTouchEasyPay system they are rolling out where you sign on the touch for a credit card.

    plus it would have the added of developing tech to compete with Wacom, especially the Cintiq. perhaps as another use for the rumors Tablet

  1. JeffHarris

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Oct 1999


    Tablet CAD!

    I'd love to see Vectorworks Lite on an Apple tablet. They could just call it MiniCAD like the olden days. If the stylus were pressure sensitive (licensed from Wacom) that would be icing on it!

  1. MacnnChester

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jun 2007


    Tablet OK, But Book Better

    I'd like to see this functionality on a tablet and of course use it to watch video, etc., but what I really want is the form factor of the Courier. I know it is MS pie in the sky, but that would be much more useful (mobile dual screen) than a flat slate.

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