CES 2011- Livescribe Smartpens Strike the Right Note

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The most wasteful time Judie and I spent at CES was the hour and a half we had at the Casio Press Conference. They really had nothing of substance to show us yet they made it out to be a huge deal.Yes, it wasted our time but, more than that, the hyperbole they used in their ridiculous attempt to make it look like there WAS something to share was insulting. (At least we got a post out of it…) 🙂

When I had a chance to meet with Jody Farrar and Andy Van Scaack, some of the representatives from Livescribe, it was a similar story. Like Casio they had nothing truly new and exciting for me to photograph and report on but that was where the similarities ended. First, they were immediately upfront about the fact that they were not breaking news at CES. Second, they DID show me some neat stuff that will be coming during 2011 but isn’t quite ready for prime-time. (They showed it to me and trusted that I would hold it until THEY were ready to share.) Third, they took the time to lay out their vision and the direction the company is going without hyperbole. And finally, as someone who lives by his Echo Smartpen, they asked for my input on what direction they might take in the future. In other words, I spent an hour with Livescribe, learned nothing radically new BUT felt it was time incredibly well spent.

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Here’s a bit of what I learned and can share-

The company started with a focus on their Pulse Smartpen. In other words, they were a hardware tech company. They have quickly come to understand that they are not a tech company as much as they are in the business of note taking. The Pulse and Echo Smartpens are simply some of the tools for Livescribe to help people take better notes, keep better records and access the information they need when and where they need it. Livescribe is the note taking expert and they are just getting started.

Along those lines it is worth noting that Andy is actually Professor Van Schaack. He is the Senior Science Advisor for Livescribe and a university professor. That in and of itself says something about the path Livescribe is taking. Everything they shared with me, and everything the will be announcing this year, flows from their realization that they are THE note taking experts.

The paper tablet app and functionality that was released for the Echo smartpen has been incredibly popular with Livescribe users. The idea and functionality came about through a relationship Livescribe has with the University of Virginia and had the goal of giving people Tablet PC functionality without the cost and bother of getting a tablet pc. (For those of you who do not know, I lived by a tablet pc for years. I missed the functionality when I moved to the Mac. When I discovered the Livescribe smartpen I stopped missing my tablets and have not looked back.)

Livescribe also began working with a variety of other companies whose technology and approach are complimentary to theirs. The first big name they have been working with is Evernote but there will be many more in the months to come.

Finally, I learned something that put the need and utility of Livescribe’s products in perspective. We speak thousands upon thousands of words each and every day. We remember at most just 50% of what we hear. And, get this… Only 30-50% of what we remember is actually correct.

That is why Livescribe is less about the device these days and more about what their device, and knowledge, can do.


About the Author

Dan Cohen
Having a father who was heavily involved in early laser and fiber-optical research, Dan grew up surrounded by technology and gadgets. Dan’s father brought home one of the very first video games when he was young and Dan remembers seeing a “pre-release” touchtone phone. (When he asked his father what the “#” and “*” buttons were his dad said, “Some day, far in the future, we’ll have some use for them.”) Technology seemed to be in Dan’s blood but at some point he took a different path and ended up in the clergy. His passion for technology and gadgets never left him. Dan is married to Raina Goldberg who is also an avid user of Apple products. They live in New Jersey with their golden doodle Nava.