Microsoft’s Ballmer hinting at contextual digital input methods?

Out of all the technologies that Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer could have specifically mentioned at yesterday’s Sanford C. Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference, he chose this:

"I look in this audience, and I see a lot of paper and pencil. Ten years from now, I won’t see paper and pencil if we in the hardware industry do our jobs right. Pencil and paper will be replaced by superior technology that is digital."

Think of what Ballmer could have mentioned out of his list of "60 or 70" R&D things: wireless connectivity, smarter software, robotics, whatever. He chose digital input; notice I didn’t say he chose "digital ink" and there’s a reason for that particular choice of words. Input to me is a contextual beast; if you don’t think so, read the "How to spot a mobile device user" post that James wrote this morning. The entire premise is based around the context of input: where you are, what device you have, what input methods you can choose from.

Personally, there are times when I like to ink, there are times when I like to type and there are times when I like to exercise the vocal cords with voice recognition. My hunch is that the "best" input method will be one that is flexible enough to easily and quickly transition among several digital input methods so you can use the one that’s best in your current context. That’s what I believe Steve Ballmer is hinting at, but more importantly, what do you think?


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