While we are all eagerly awaiting the full arrival of the Samsung Chromebook Pro, it looks like there are many more stylus-toting Chromebooks on the horizon.
Though we’ve talked about ‘Caroline’ (the Samsung Chromebook Pro’s Skylake sibling) and ‘Pbody’ (what is surely the Lenovo Yoga Book) at length, it looks like the number of stylus-enabled Chromebooks is going to grow soon.
As of this article’s writing, there are currently zero Chromebooks with real stylus support.
What’s The Difference?
In a nutshell, a proper stylus takes some work to implement for standard capacitive touchscreens. Capacitive touch is the most widely-used tech to make our fingers work as input devices and it works wonderfully for standard touch UI.
Where it falls short, however, is in its precision.
Capacitive touch needs a wide surface to create a point of contact. I’ll leave out the technical bits, but this is why a cheap stylus you pick up at the Dollar Store must maintain a certain width at its tip to actually register a press.
What this causes is a necessity for crayon-width writing utensils that are not precise drawing or writing tools.
A proper stylus, however, utilizes another input layer in the display (digitizer) that interacts with the writing tool. Whether it is Samsung’s S-Pen, Wacom’s latest stylus, or the N-trig used on the Surface devices, all of these pens use a similar type of tech to make writing input more precise and add pressure sensitivity.
The experience is miles ahead of a standard, fat-tipped capacitive stylus. If you’ve not tried one, head to Best Buy and give it a whirl.
This Is What Is Being Added
So, the importance of these digitizers in relation to pen input on Chromebooks is pretty significant. With proper, accurate stylus support being added in 3 confirmed devices already, it makes me wonder if we are going to get full stylus support in Chrome OS.
Sure, with Android apps we could see some fun stuff using a proper stylus, but what about Chrome OS in general? The ability to quickly mark up websites, screenshots, Google Docs or Slides would be a great productivity boost. If we were to start seeing wider stylus support for more devices, this could be a reality.
Wider Adoption Is In The Works
And that is exactly what we are seeing right now. According to this commit, we see mention of how to widely implement the Wacom firmware updater when dealing with a much broader device base.
Currently, in the words of the commit:
This imposes a one-wacom-device-per-build limitation since we can’t include more than one Wacom FW binary per build. As Zerg builds (more than one device sharing a build) become more common, we need to allow our firmware updaters to support this.
So, in short, there are baseboards that will yield multiple models with Wacom digitizers and styli, thus they need to find a way to implement a broader firmware update process.
If the three devices we know about with stylus support were the only three coming, there would be little need for this. It seems, however, that the opposite is true. We may be looking at a fleet of stylus-toting Chromebooks in 2017. This leads me to believe that we will see some pen input tools built right into Chrome OS before long.
Between what Samsung and Microsoft have both done in this space, there are some seriously exciting possibilities here.
It will be quite interesting to watch it all play out in the coming months!