Wacom, widely considered the gold standard in pen input computing technology, has officially announced the availability of their next-generation Bamboo tablet line, a consumer-oriented tablet capable of both pen and multitouch input.
Whether intentional or otherwise, it looks as if Wacom has had the Bamboo Touch available for at least a couple of weeks, as evidenced by the numerous shots popping up of users purchasing the new units at retail stores such as Best Buy. The official website states a general availability timeline of early October.
The Bamboo series is Wacom’s mainstream tablet line; the high-end (and high-priced) Intuos is aimed at professional graphic designers and those users who need the extreme features of levels of sensitivity that the Intuos tablets offer. The Bamboo line, on the other hand, is aimed at pretty much everyone else who is interested in pen and tablet computing. In fact, Wacom has recently been pushing a scrapbooking edition of the Bamboo line to capitalize on the recent growth and interest in the scrapbooking industry, both physical and digital.
Much like the first entrant to the Bamboo line, the Bamboo Touch model comes in two variations at different price points. The $69 model includes the multi-touch tablet, and that’s it. It’s capable of pen input, but purchasers of this unit will need to buy one separately. For $99, the tablet comes with a pen included in the box as well as a little fabric loop at the bottom to keep it close by — an invaluable addition, considering how many times I’ve misplaced my tablet’s pen — the thirty dollar difference is about how much you’ll pay for a pen on its own, so it’s worthwhile to go ahead and get the one that has the loop of fabric if you think you’ll need it. The original Bamboo shipped at the same price points; while it was incapable of multitouch finger input, it included a pen with both models and a tablet-only mouse at the higher level.
What makes the new Bamboo Touch so interesting is that it seems to be the first commercially available input device that responds both to multitouch finger input as well as digitizer/exact pen input. Many tablet computers, like HP’s TouchSmart used to use pen inputs, but when they went multitouch, lost that ability. Additionally, it’s the first external multitouch touchpad being marketed in North America and Europe, and for that reason alone stands to be a commercial success. Wacom is banking on shipping 1.5 million units worldwide during the first year of availability.
Obviously, the new tablet is being geared to take advantage of the hype surrounding the upcoming Windows 7 launch, the first OS from Microsoft that natively supports multiple simultaneous inputs without resorting to manufacturer hacks. Among the supported gestures are taps and hand movements that cover navigation, click, double click, right click, forward, back, scrolling, select and drag, rotation and zooming.