UPDATE 2 4/1/16 From the Windows Experience blog, posted by Aaron Woodman, Sr. Director of Marketing at Microsoft, comes the company's official take on the Wacom deal:
Another way we’ll deliver that is via a recent partnership with Wacom.
Wacom, a leader in digital pen hardware, has signed an agreement with Microsoft to create and produce Windows Ink capable solutions for the ecosystem. This will help provide customers with the best end-2-end Windows Ink experience. By combining Windows Ink technology, learnings from Surface and Wacom DNA into a high quality writing instrument built for Windows Ink, customers have an easy choice when they need an accessory pen. Customers should expect the pen to be available at retailers like Best Buy this holiday season.
UPDATE 3/31/16 From the official press release, below, Wacom is targeting the 2016 holiday season for the release of the dual protocol pen.
Wacom to broaden digital pen interoperability in the marketplace under Universal Pen Framework (UPF) along with Microsoft
Tokyo, March 31, 2016 ----- Wacom Co., Ltd announced today its Universal Pen Framework (UPF) initiative has entered a new stage with Microsoft Corp. licensing its Microsoft Pen Protocol to Wacom. In the near future Wacom’s digital pen solutions will incorporate both Microsoft Pen and Wacom Active ESTM Pen protocols, helping customers better take advantage of Windows Ink on Windows 10 devices. Wacom is working to build pens that support both protocols, targeting delivery this holiday season at the end of 2016.
“This is truly groundbreaking: now we have two leading pen protocols—by Microsoft and Wacom—that can be tapped on demand with a single pen,” said Masahiko Yamada, President & CEO of Wacom. “Supporting multiple protocols makes our pen incredibly fast and easy for people to write intelligent notes, be creative, and get productive when using Windows Ink on their Windows 10 devices. As well as advocating the digital pen as a primary interface tool for mobile products and services, we also believe in the power of digital ink as a transformational medium. Digital ink can convey people’s creativity by enabling ideas to be captured and shared over the cloud, while sustaining the evolution of those ideas. I’m looking forward to seeing how we can accelerate the emergence of digital stationery in collaboration with valued partners like Microsoft,” he added.
“Windows Ink makes it easy for people to turn their thoughts into actions,” said Kevin Gallo, corporate vice president of Windows Developer Platform, Microsoft, Corp. “People that use pens with their Windows 10 devices are happier, more engaged, more creative, and productive. Today‘s agreement with Wacom will help customers get a great Windows Ink experience on virtually all pen-enabled Windows 10 devices.”
Wacom has been supplying its Active ESTM pen solution to a number of OEM customers since 2014. In order to ensure interoperability of digital pens among multiple platforms, Wacom has been developing the multi-protocol pen technology in collaboration with key IT industry players such touch controller suppliers, display manufacturers and platform developers, under the name of UPF (version 2.0).
As part of the UPF 2.0 initiative, this agreement between the two companies makes it possible for Wacom to manufacture multi-protocol pen solutions including Microsoft Pen and Active ESTM protocols on demand. It is hoped that this will help to bolster broad consumer demand for digital pen and ink as enabling tools for communication, expression, business, education and entertainment, covering various aspects of people’s daily activities.
On January 7, 2016, Wacom introduced the Digital Stationery Consortium, which promotes the digital inking experience across multiple mobile ecosystems and solutions through collaboration with companies across a range of sectors, from IT hardware, software and service providers, through to businesses in stationery, publishing and education fields. The agreement on digital pen protocols is a huge step forward toward the era of simple, high quality digital pen and ink experience, and it will form one of the pillars of the Digital Stationery Consortium.
(*) This is translated to English from a Japanese announcement solely for convenience of non-Japanese readers.
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Moments after I posted the earlier story about Microsoft touting its upcoming Ink API improvements, I came across a tantalizing Tweet from Bryan Roper.
Sounding like hyperbole, I assumed that this would be something similar to Wacom's iPad efforts: a Bluetooth stylus for touch only devices.
Tonight, several tech blogs are reporting that the two companies are indeed working on a much more ambitious collaboration: a dual sensor pen that will work on both Wacom ActiveES and Microsoft N-Trig devices.
This remarkable development will be the first time the pair work together since Microsoft abandoned Wacom's EMR technology used in the Surface Pro 1 and 2 for the thinner N-Trig digitizers found in every tablet released since the Surface Pro 3.
Microsoft acquired N-Trig's pen technology last year and we all assumed that Wacom fans would have to look at devices from other manufacturers for the foreseeable future.
VAIO is the only other OEM producing devices with N-Trig digitizers. Since the Toshiba Encore 2 Write was released in January, 2014, Wacom has made steady advances, providing digitizers for Lenovo, HP and Dell, to name a few.
While N-Trig pens are interchangeable, Wacom's ActiveES pens have unique IDs and OEMs have chosen to limit compatibility between tablets. Wacom has been promoting a solution with its as-yet-unreleased Bamboo Smart pen for select tablets and 2-in-1 convertible devices.
The active pens from Microsoft and Wacom operate very similarly but they do have some important differences in pressure sensitivity levels, hover distance and button capabilities.
As more details become available, we will make sure to update this post.