Opposites Attract: Livescribe’s Smartpen is iPad’s Opposite

I was delighted and intrigued to read the recent review carried by the Associated Press titled “Livescribe’s Smartpen is iPad’s Opposite.”

In essence, the story is a David and Goliath comparison of Apple and Livescribe.

Livescribe’s smartpen is favorably described and reviewed.  “It records what you write, and its microphone records what you’re hearing at the same time.  It matches up the audio recording with the recorded writing, so that if you tap the pen on something you’ve already written, it will play back the audio recording, either through its built-in speaker or through headphones.  It is useful in almost any situation where you want to record something for future reference, be it a lecture or an interview.”

“Writing on the iPad isn’t easy,” continues the story, noting that styluses are awkward, and typing on a screen is tough. Agreed.

“So, the Echo is still the best tool for note-taking…” states author Peter Svensson.  Yes, as nearly a million people who have discovered this award-winning invention from Livescribe agree.

Also covered in the story, are recent advancements in smartpen software that let users send their notes and audio from paper or from their computers, to Google Docs, Microsoft OneNote, Evernote and Facebook. The author notes, “the writing looks good on the screen – much better than it would look if you simply wrote on a pad, then scanned or photographed it.” Pencasts are an interactive, digital version of your notes and audio. They allow you to hear, see and relive notes exactly as they were captured; and now, pencasts can be shared as standard PDFs, viewable with free Adobe Reader – no special software needed. (See our video on the Future According to Livescribe here.)

Svensson recommends increased pen screen size and connectivity improvements in the story, attributes that are certainly well understood by Livescribe. Rest assured that we’ve been listening carefully to our customers and are diligently at work.

A key missing component in the coverage, however, is that a smartpen customer can write the word “iPad” on a page in a notebook, and send notes and audio to an iPad, where the notes can be saved and played anytime – as pencasts with animated ink and synchronized audio!  Or, a consumer can write “mobile,” to view their notes on any Android phone, or play the notes with audio on any Android phone or tablet that supports Flash.

Livescribe smartpen owners are now viewing their notes on Apple iPads, iPhones and Android smartphones and tablets.  The notes they created with pen and paper are now easily viewed digitally, on multiple devices.

Most importantly, the story comes to a misdirected conclusion.  While the author affirmatively declares personal affinity for smartpens by saying, “I like the Livescribe pens, and find them useful,” he classifies the pens as dead-end computers, in the theme of the smartpen and iPad as opposites, with a winner and a loser.

The correct conclusion, instead, is not to drive a choice between the smartpen and iPad, but rather to highlight the incredible power of the combination of a smartpen and an iPad.  Capturing your notes, with the finesse, detail and ease of pen and paper, and then having a high-quality digital copy on your iPad, where the notes can be viewed, and played as animation with audio, is indeed a winning combination.  (We recently shared ideas for students using iPads and smartpens together for school here.)

To the degree that the Livescribe’s smartpen is iPad’s opposite, these opposites attract.  And this attraction is more than magnetic, it’s useful.

–  Jim Marggraff, Chairman, Founder and CEO of Livescribe

This post was written by:

gbender - who has written 3 posts on noteworthy.

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3 Responses to “Opposites Attract: Livescribe’s Smartpen is iPad’s Opposite”

  1. gewappnet says:

    You said: “A key missing component in the coverage, however, is that a smartpen customer can write the word “iPad” on a page in a notebook, and send notes and audio to an iPad [...]“. Actually he can’t. He has to connect the Echo to a computer, use installed Livescribe software to transfer the data to the computer from where it is uploaded to a cloud space. Then you use an app on the iPad to access the cloud space and transfer the notes finally to the screen of the iPad. If you sit in a meeting and want to transfer (send) your just written notes to your iPad, it will not be possible. As long as there is no way to connect the Smartpen to the iPad in any way, you can’t talk of “the incredible power of the combination”.

  2. I agree with Jim. The LiveScribe / iPad relationship is not an either/or but a both/and choice. My satchel has both my iPad and my Livescribe. They complement each other beautifully.

    More of my experiences with the Livescribe pen is captured on my blog post – This “tablet” was formerly a tree.


  3. Mike Conkey says:

    Another missing part of the Echo review posted on cbsnews.com is the amazing ability for the associated Livescribe Desktop application to very quickly search and find any handwritten note where a specific word has been ‘written.’ I constantly use this feature to review all of my notes from meetings where the word or phrase was used, with the results on every associated page highlighted in yellow/orange coloring with every page in the search results shown on the left to quickly open that page to view the notes. And, if I want to I can gather copies of those pages into a special custom notebook on the Livescribe Desktop for future reference; or simply print them, save as a PDF and more! One of the best business tools that I’ve ever purchased, period!


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