Apple’s iPad might have sold one million units in just a month, but that’s not impressing Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who thinks that the iPad’s touch-only input approach will ultimately lose to pen-based tablets… at least with students:
“Microsoft has a lot of different tablet projects that we’re pursuing. We think that work with the pen that Microsoft pioneered will become a mainstream for students. It can give you a device that you can not only read, but also create documents at the same time.
While I agree there’s a place for styluses with tablet computers (and, in fact, wish Apple would officially release a pressure-sensitive one for use with the iPad), Jobs is ultimately right: if uses have to reach for a stylus then a touchscreen device is a failure. I don’t think that changes whether you’re a casual user or a student.
The real reason Gates is saying styluyses are necessary for touchscreen devices has more to do with the fact that Windows 7, the operating system Microsoft would like tablets to run, was designed with mouse input in mind. A stylus does a better job at simulating a mouse than a finger, and Windows 7’s stylus support is more robust than its hatchet job multitouch. I wonder if Gates will change his tune when Windows 7 catches up with the iPhone OS, at least when it comes to touch.