Apple Inc. (AAPL) Patent Reveals Steve Jobs’ Vision for iPen Stylus

Among a bundle of 30 patents granted to Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) on Tuesday, there is one item that marks a break with the past in both technical and symbolic terms. This is the patent for the iPen stylus, an interface tool whose patent application was originally filed in 2012. Though visually similar to many other devices produced by other companies, the iPen incorporates fresh technology known as “stylus orientation detection.”

Stylus orientation detection makes interfacing via the iPen a similar experience to working with a pencil or an art marker. Placing the stylus at 90 degrees to the screen surface produces a thin line, while tilting it out of true broadens the line produced, exactly as a calligraphic pen can be used to smoothly apply different widths of ink during the course of one stroke by varying the angle at which it is held.

(Image from Apple USPTO)

Capable of operating in conjunction with any Apple Inc. (AAPL) device that features a touchscreen, the iPen is unusual in several other ways. One is that it provides a haptic experience (that is, one with feedback to the sense of touch) by producing a slight but perceptible vibration while sliding over the screen. The other end of the stylus may function as an electronic eraser, wiping away pixels drawn with the “nib.” Gestures and variable pressure input are among the other functionalities apt to be supported should the stylus ever be physically manufactured.

Apple Inc. (AAPL) eschewed production of styluses for many years due to the personal opinion of Steve Jobs, who was opposed to the devices. Nevertheless, the shift in company policy could be argued to be in the spirit of the company’s maverick founder, who famously saluted misfits, rebels, and “crazy ones” as necessary agents of change.

The break with rules and traditions, even those established by Mr. Jobs himself, is Apple’s characteristic source of success, raising the possibility that the iPen stylus will offer some help in restoring the firm’s fortunes.

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  • vagrant

    “…restoring the firm’s fortunes”

    Are you an idiot?

    • Rhian Hunt

      A fall from 19% to 15% of smartphones shipped between 2012 and 2013, and a decline from 38% to 34% of the tablet market over the same period, is objectively not a positive trend.

      Apple is still the dominant force in most ways, and has very high potential, but its overall piece of the pie is dwindling. This has just been demonstrated to cause disproportionate alarm in investors.

      Taking tech in new directions might be key to slowing or reversing that trend, which is what I was attempting to convey at the end. I leave it to readers to judge whether leveraging new ideas to help halt a negative market share trend qualifies as “idiocy” or not.

      In any case, what is essentially no more than a snappy concluding sentence has little bearing on the bulk of the article, which is focused on describing the iPen’s possible functionality.