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Big Backing For 'Universal Stylus' Campaign (bbc.com) 87

Google has backed an effort to standardise touch-screen styluses so they can be used on many devices. From a report: The Universal Stylus Initiative (USI) was launched, in 2015, to encourage companies to produce styluses that work on rivals' products Dell, Intel, Lenovo, LG and graphics tablet-maker Wacom have all backed the project. However, Apple, Microsoft and Samsung have not. One expert suggested the big brands would keep their proprietary pens. Styluses designed to work with modern touch-screen devices and graphics tablets usually contain sensors to detect pressure, movement and orientation of the pen.
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Big Backing For 'Universal Stylus' Campaign

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  • ...is there are so many to choose from. We had a standard connector for charging phones: microUSB. Apple and Samsung chose to go with a proprietary connector instead. The lighting cable is at least available from third parties; the Apple version cost $22 at BestBuy. The Samsung Galaxy S8 and presumably the S9 as well use a proprietary cable, only available from Samsung as far as I know. Apple sells a $99 Apple Pen; what monetary interest could they have in supporting a universal stylus?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The galaxy S8 uses a USB-C connector and all Samsung smart phones I've dealt with used some standard USB connector.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Galaxy S8 uses USB type C, which is not proprietary

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by sexconker ( 1179573 )

        It is absolutely proprietary. USB is not open and free. It's just the proprietary spec most devices use and many devices pony up the $$$ to license. (You can always buy unbranded crap from Amazon and hope it doesn't short out.)

        • You don't know the meaning of "proprietary."
        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 31, 2018 @06:04PM (#56043331)

          It is absolutely proprietary. USB is not open and free.

          Actually it is open, you can download the spec from here [usb.org]. Also it is free of charge, you can pay for a VID ($5000USD) and you can pay to license the logo ($3500USD) but you can also do as many do and if you need a VID use 0xF055.

        • It's no more proprietary than Micro USB, so the argument is still totally pointless.

        • by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2018 @06:18PM (#56043421) Homepage Journal

          You can use the USB connector freely. You can't put the trademark logo on a device that hasn't paid for the logo license and passed USB-IF compliance testing. It's a nice loophole for hobbyists that want something totally free and off-the-shelf.

          If you're manufacturing devices, it's a single fee without a per device charge. This is different from something like FireWire which was open spec, but the trademarked names and logos cost a $1 per device. (or $1 per port?). FireWire is an open standard (IEEE 1394-1995) but an official copy of the standard is $335.00 for IEEE members (membership is $35/year).

          Really proprietary stuff means you can't even buy the components to build a connector or cable without an agreement from the manufacturer or custom manufacturer.

          But perhaps you have a different definition of proprietary than the rest of us have. If so, please explain it.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The S8 and S9 use a USB-C cable. It's about as proprietary as a MicroUSB.

    • As the others above said, the Galaxy S8 uses a USB-C connector, however I do not recognize it as a standard USB connector since you do not need to try three times [redditmedia.com] to connect it the right way around.

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      ...is there are so many to choose from. We had a standard connector for charging phones: microUSB. Apple and Samsung chose to go with a proprietary connector instead. The lighting cable is at least available from third parties; the Apple version cost $22 at BestBuy. The Samsung Galaxy S8 and presumably the S9 as well use a proprietary cable, only available from Samsung as far as I know. Apple sells a $99 Apple Pen; what monetary interest could they have in supporting a universal stylus?

      The problem is then y

      • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2018 @05:30PM (#56043071) Homepage Journal

        The problem is then you get no innovation. Micro USB sucks in various ways, being a single orientation connector is one of them. Yet, if everyone stuck to the standard, we'd all be ... stuck with the standard.

        Nonsense. If companies decide that the standard isn't good enough, they can improve the standard, just like the USB consortium did with USB-C.

        IMO, if Apple had pushed for improvements to the standard instead of going off on their own with Lightning, we wouldn't have two incompatible standards right now. After all, I think everybody had concluded that micro-USB was fundamentally unreliable by the time Lightning came out, and they were looking for a replacement by that point anyway. The idea of making a reversible connector might have been borrowed from Apple (no idea about the timeline for that decision), but it certainly wasn't the primary driver for replacing micro-USB.

        In fact, if Apple had stuck with the standards and pushed to improve those standards rather than using the 30-pin dock connector way back in the day, there's a good chance we'd have gotten a USB-C-like connector many years earlier, instead of the disaster that micro-USB turned out to be.

        • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

          Nonsense. If companies decide that the standard isn't good enough, they can improve the standard, just like the USB consortium did with USB-C.

          Yeah, but how are you going to tell if it's better?

          USB-C didn't come out of thin air. And I'm pretty sure there was zero need for it - after all, all the cables had USB 3.0 versions of them.

          You can invent USB-C but then you have to prove it's much better than the existing standard which is well entrenched - you're convincing an entire industry to change to something n

          • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

            USB-C didn't come out of thin air. And I'm pretty sure there was zero need for it - after all, all the cables had USB 3.0 versions of them.

            There was definitely a need. Several needs, actually:

            • A need for a small connector that was less flimsy than micro-USB, which has a bad problem with connectors wearing to the point that they become unreliable.
            • A need for more pins to allow better bandwidth.
            • A need for more power to make it practical to charge tablets that are getting closer and closer to being full laptop
    • by Anonymous Coward

      What made you think Samsung was using a proprietary cable on their phones?

      https://www.samsung.com/us/support/answer/ANS00062655/

      I even gave you a link. GO on, click it and look.

    • by Holi ( 250190 )
      What? I have a Galaxy S8 and it uses microUSB and the S9 will use a USB-c (again a standard connector). Not sure why you think Samsung is using a proprietary connector but you should probably verify those things before posting.
    • as far as I know

      That would be a new unit of measurement based on the number zero? Sounds far indeed...

    • Be careful with lightning cables. I got a couple of cheaper ones. After a while, _all_ the devices I was using them with could no longer charge properly. I switched to apple branded cables and the problems mostly went away, but not completely. I think the cable might have caused some kind of damage to the power system of said iDevices.

      Never buying 3rd party cables again. Just can't trust them.

  • Until I purchased a Sony DPT-RP1.
    It comes with a stylus that imitates "real writing experience", including replaceable tips that wear down like pencils, and brake when falling like fountain pens.
  • by rainer_d ( 115765 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2018 @05:04PM (#56042885) Homepage

    The problem with these kinds of standards is that they usually settle on the cheapest, crappiest thing. MicroUSB is the perfect example, exploding/burning/shorting chargers are another one.

    Lightning, Thunderbolt and especially USB-C are better examples, with companies behind it that have at least some level of QC.

    There's nothing somebody else in China can't manufacture a bit cheaper and a bit crappier and a bit more dangerous for the end-user.

    • The problem with standards is that they can be well defined to do one thing well, or be loosely defined and leave people guessing. The problems of cheap products that don't follow the standard, and therefore short out and explode, is rarely the fault of the standard.

      Lightning is, IMHO, a well defined standard as it tells you exactly what it can do. USB is a generally good standard as it's mostly just a general purpose protocol that people can for the most part create devices that "just work". Where I bel

    • by chispito ( 1870390 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2018 @08:11PM (#56044241)

      The problem with these kinds of standards is that they usually settle on the cheapest, crappiest thing. MicroUSB is the perfect example

      I think by most metrics, micro USB has been a wildly successful standard. What is it the perfect example of?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The problem with these kinds of standards is that they usually settle on the cheapest, crappiest thing. MicroUSB is the perfect example

        I think by most metrics, micro USB has been a wildly successful standard. What is it the perfect example of?

        It's the perfect example of a standard that's run it's course and was overdue for replacement.

        When it came out it was a vast improvement over all the proprietary connectors, and old RS-232 based data cables. It had power and data on one cable, and was standard on most every phone. Early attempts violated the standard, but those didn't last long. Near the end there were attempts to extend it's life with more power (with sometimes disastrous results), wider and faster plugs, and extensions to the spec that

    • The problem with these kinds of standards is that they usually settle on the cheapest, crappiest thing. MicroUSB is the perfect example, exploding/burning/shorting chargers are another one.

      I fully disagree! My chargers have never exploded. I thank the EC on my knees everyday for imposing standardization of power supplies for phones.

  • by sit1963nz ( 934837 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2018 @05:05PM (#56042887)
    Google is not a player in this game, and be honest I really doubt they give a damn what gets developed as a "standard" Googles stance has EVERYTHING to do with attacking Apple and Microsoft. From reviews I have read both these companies have good pens/tech and they work very well. This is tech google does not have, so why not force these companies to either share or get labeled as "non-standard" even if that standard is inferior. this "standard" is by companies trying to stay relevant.
    • No skin in the game? I mean aside from them making their own devices that might want a stylus in the future, they also make an OS deployed on devices from all those partner names listed above. You don't see a point in Google ensuring styluses developed for use on ChromeOS devices can be used with other ChromeOS devices that support a stylus? It's all just "attacking"? Come on.
      • Google making devices is such as small % of the market you can call it a rounding error. This is simply an attempt to let the tail wag the dog.
        • So what, you ignore the entire ChromeOS part of my post? Chromebooks outsold MacBooks last year and ChromeOS has a presence far greater than a rounding error and is also increasing every year. But Google should probably just... what? Encourage everyone but Apple, Microsoft and Samsung to invent their own stylus tech so there can be 50 competing standards? Get all their ChromeOS vendors to license the tech from one of those three companies who each have a reputation for not licensing? Just give up? De
    • Google is not a player in this game, and be honest I really doubt they give a damn what gets developed as a "standard" Googles stance has EVERYTHING to do with attacking Apple and Microsoft.

      No, Google is trying to prevent fragmentation by trying to reign in Samsung. At this point, it couldn't care less about Apple or Microsoft. HTC is the second player in the Android space which has a pressure sensitive pen. Google already owns HTC (the mobile part). But even before Google purchased HTC, HTC had already adapted its pen API to work with the standard Android API.

      And despite the fact that Samsung is using Wacom technology for its pen technology, Samsung is still insisting that developers use its

      • Prevent fragmentation...a bit late for that isn't it ?
        http://www.businessinsider.com... [businessinsider.com]

        Oreo (v 8) is on 0.3% of devices vs gingerbread (v 2.3) 20.6%

        each successive version has fewer and fewer users, what version 9 going to be called " Android 9 "Who gives a toss"

        If this were Windows, over 20% of people would still be running MS-DOS 6.
        • The light blue is Nougat (v 7) 20.6%, NOT Gingerbread.

          Gingerbread (v 2.3) is only 0.6% (it's a slightly different blue). Here, take another look at the original link [businessinsider.com] you referenced.

          And here is a less confusing graph [statista.com] with an even earlier date.

          I'm not blaming you though, the Business Insider purposefully altered the original graph so it would tell the story they wanted to tell. And it took a while to figure it out myself, even though I knew that 20.6% of single-processor phones couldn't possibly be correct.

  • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2018 @05:23PM (#56043007) Homepage

    A few searches leads me to believe that Dell, Lenovo, and LG have all put out devices with Wacom stylus technology. I wonder what this "universal stylus" technology will be based on? I wonder whose patents it will depend on?

    • I'm a big fan of Wacom technology; however, even among Wacom-based styluses there's no guarantee of interoperability. I've had three different Wacom tablets (desktop digitizer, old transformable laptop, and modern tablet), and none of the styluses work with the other devices. It's very disappointing, though I wouldn't be surprised if it's due to lowering power requirements for successively more power-sensitive devices.

    • A few searches leads me to believe that Dell, Lenovo, and LG have all put out devices with Wacom stylus technology. I wonder what this "universal stylus" technology will be based on? I wonder whose patents it will depend on?

      Notably left out of your list are Fujitsu, who basically owns the tablet market in the medical field, where swivel-tablets with keyboards and Windows 7 still reign supreme, and Samsung, who use Wacom styli in their Galaxy Note series of phones and tablets.

      To answer your question though...Wacom's, hopefully.

      Look, I'm all about having competition, but this strikes me as one of those areas where the need for competition is not nearly as bad as others. Even though Wacom seems to license out to basically-everyon

    • USI is most pushed by Intel.
  • by Arkham ( 10779 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2018 @05:32PM (#56043085)

    Apple and Google have zero incentive to have a standard, so that they can be undercut and effectively cede the market to cheap knock-offs. Pens are never the reason for choosing a platform, but it factors heavily into consumer satisfaction. Having a best-in-class experience is critical to maintaining satisfaction.

    Also, I suspect the margin on Apple and Microsoft Pens is quite good.

  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2018 @06:05PM (#56043337) Homepage Journal

    Looks like they're supporting universal run-on sentences too.

  • having worked with the apple stylus for a while now, the most annoying things is the charging. Cables are no option. A standard definitely needs a stylus which is wirelessly charged when near the tablet. One could even imagine a universal solution where the electonics would be the only thing vendor dependent. One could have a pen in a fancy fountain pen shape with an apple cartrige and write on an ipad, then if necessary change the cartridge to write on microsoft tablet etc.
    • by Geeky ( 90998 )

      Charging?

      Well, the Stylus with my Samsung Tab S3 tablet doesn't need charging - doesn't have a battery at all. I've used a Surface Pen and tried a friend's Apple Pencil, and the Samsung is just as good. Pressure sensitive and accurate.

      I'd hope that would become the standard, rather than yet another thing that needs charging or weird AAAA batteries that aren't widely sold.

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