Although great for social networking and consuming entertainment, tablet computers have largely failed to provide tools that simulate the immersive and responsive experience of drawing tools and paper. In a recent FtM post, I followed paper’s unsuccessful journey to the tablet screen. The lack of creative tools for tablets was a problem Microsoft set out to solve in 2009 with the Courier device, a hinged, digital notebook that worked with a stylus. The project was cancelled before launch by top Microsoft executives who determined it a threat to Windows 8.
The Courier was a revolutionary concept for creative workers— watch the Courier prototype video if you haven’t yet. Although I love the iPad, it can’t do that.
Or can it?
Two new iPad apps, Taposé and Paper by FiftyThree, are directly inspired by the Courier team’s concept of “Free Create,” which CNET’s Jay Greene describes as “the notion of eliminating the processes and protocols that productivity software often imposes on workers.”
Taposé was born from its creators’ grief over Courier’s demise, a story told in their funny Kickstarter video. After raising enough money for the project (in part from former Microsoft Chief Technology Officer J. Allard, the Courier’s founder), they developed their Moleskine-like app for iPad, featuring dual notebook panes and creative content tools for drawing and collage. The app was rejected by Apple in January 2012, beginning three months of redesigns and appeals.
Taposé was finally approved to mixed reviews, some stating it had failed to capture Courier’s “Free Create” ethos with its complicated interface.
Paper by FiftyThree
By contrast, simplicity is the watchword of Paper by FiftyThree, the first product from a creative team including several ex-Microsoft and Courier project alums. “We believe our best ideas emerge when we use paper,” reads their mission statement, “so we set out to build tools that work the way we do.” The app consists of a series of plain paper notebooks “unadorned by faux binder rings or ripped edges” and a set of simple drawing tools that behave responsively– the paintbrush blends, the fountain pen’s line widths vary with speed.
Paper’s trailer features scenes of someone walking through a city, drawing on Paper like it’s, well…paper. It’s a notable contrast to the typical app trailer, which is centered on technology. This video and the concept of Paper itself suggests that the best creative technology recognizes that pen and paper are already close to perfection; perhaps consumers agree. Paper is currently the number one App-Store download.
Could Paper be the future of the screen?