In 2010, in a thunderous dis that would reverberate throughout the nation, Apple CEO Steve Jobs disparaged tablets that came with styluses thusly: “If you see a stylus, they blew it.”
It’s a famous, much-debated line among tech bloggers and nerds, as companies like Samsung ship tablets and smartphones with styluses and Apple steadfastly refuses to include one with its iPad.
Now, however, Apple may be pursuing a change of course: On Thursday, the United States Patent and Trademark Office revealed that Apple had been granted a patent for what looks a whole lot like a stylus for the iPad. The patent refers to it as an “input device having extendable nib.” A stylus by any other name…
Here’s an illustration from the granted patent, first noticed by Apple blog Apple Insider:
For Apple, introducing a stylus would be one of the ultimate tech turnarounds. Apple and its acolytes have mocked the stylus for years. “Who wants a stylus?” Steve Jobs famously asked when introducing the original iPhone in 2007.
It wouldn’t be the first time that Apple denigrated the competition, only to turn around and adapt some of its products. Steve Jobs dismissed smaller 7-inch tablets, claiming they compromised the viewing and input experience and that the 10-inch iPad was the right size; Apple released a 7.9-inch iPad mini in 2012. Jobs also hated Android phones with screens larger than 4 inches; Apple’s iPhone 5 came with a 4-inch screen, and Apple is expected to increase the screen size again this year.
Now, before we get ahead of ourselves and call this another about-face: Apple files hundreds of patents every year, very few of which turn into actual products or features. Apple has also filed for stylus patents before, and so far, those patents have resulted in zip. This stylus proposition could turn out to be another abandoned idea.
Still, the mere fact that Apple is investigating a stylus is somewhat surprising, given the history of its executives bashing it. We’ll have to wait to see whether the iStylus ever becomes a reality. Until then, there are plenty of iPad stylus alternatives, made by enterprising companies who haven’t taken a hard line against tablet pens.
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