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September 26, 2008

The digitizer mysery

Imagine if someone had patented hard disks so iron-clad that no one else could make them. Or that an enterprising company had legally locked up LCDs such that it had a monopoly. If that were the case, we might still have giant, sluggish 20 megabyte (not gigabyte!) hard disks and computing as we know it would not be possible. And we'd all get eye strain from using smallish, barely readable antediluvian STN displays. That would be a bad situation. As is, fierce competition propels progress, and as a result we have the most wondrous products brought upon by innovation and improvement.

Except in one area.

Digitizers.

How much progress has there been since I began reviewing pen computers back in 1993? Basically none. And as far as I can tell, that sad situation sits squarely in Wacom's court. Wacom's patented digitizer technologies have resulted in Wacom having almost 96% market share in Japan, and a good 70% in the rest of the world. The Wacom digitizers I used on 1993 pen computers worked, sort of, but were hugely frustrating because it was essentially impossible to calibrate them. The Wacom digitizes I have used in vastly better and more powerful computers in 2008 worked, sort of, but were hugely frustrating because it's essentially impossible to calibrate them. I mean, there are any number of touch screens where you can calibrate 25 points or more, do edge compensation, and all sorts of other cool stuff geared towards enhancing precision and improving the user experience. A Wacom digitizer calibration? Four points, and that's it. Along the edge of the screen, the digitizer is often so badly off that it becomes frustrating to use it.

I've complained about this for pretty much as long as I can remember, and there hasn't been any change. Anything else in computing has improved dramatically. What gives? Is Wacom's technology inherently incapable of working better? Is no one else able to come up with a better alternative because of patent blocks? I don't know, but between Microsoft's marginal handling of the Tablet PC and the dismal performance of the Wacom digitizer, pen computing is where it is.

There. End of sermon. I just had to say it.

Posted by conradb212 at September 26, 2008 01:53 AM

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