Recent History in Consumer Tablet Computing

part of Pursuing the Paper of Tomorrow

Al Gore’s Our Choice Interactive Book by Push Pop Press

When the iPad was introduced, it was done so under the premise of being ‘in the middle’ betwen the smartphone and the computer, only justified in its existence by being better than both devices at a key set of things:

Photos & Video

Notably absent from the list are any categories of productive or creative work. This didn’t stop early app developers from trying to reorient the iPad for creative and productive work, the first major attempt at this vision was Paper by FiftyThree in 2012. But the trend has not abided as time has gone on, in-fact, it’s only accelerated as hardware makers and app developers look for ways to increase the value proposition of non-PC devices.

FiftyThree was famously founded by the team that had previously worked on the now infamous Courier tablet concept at Microsoft, leaked by Gizmodo in 2009.

By 2015, the idea of a more professional and creative tablet was verified by Apple’s introduction of the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil. Earlier in the year, FiftyThree had updated Paper with new features that made it much easier to diagram and ‘think’ with their application, in addition to its traditional roots in drawing and expression.




Since the introdution of the original Surface Pro in 2013, Microsoft had also been pursuing pen-based input for its tablets as well and has only become more serious in the endevour in the last few years.

Recently, a startup named reMarkable introduced a new product centered around the idea of paper-like interaction being an inherently calmer and more productive medium for note-taking and drawing.

Where are we now?

Despite all of the activity in the space and the growing penetration of tablet devices, I believe we’re in a bizzarely odd state of current affairs with regard to tablet computing’s approach to pen-based input and its interaction design metaphors more generally.