Adobe’s Ink & Slide system is now just $30 on retail sites ranging from Amazon to the Boing Boing store. For that much, you might be tempted to pick it up, even though you probably don’t have much of a use for it. That’s okay. You’ve spent money worse ways.
Built for the iPad, this aluminum pen and ruler combo was the brainchild of former Adobe VP of Product Experience, Michael Gough. Before leaving for Microsoft to lead design on Office 365, Gough ran a highly experimental division of the company inside a hanger-like room where he encouraged a team ranging from sculptors to coders to follow their muses, creating new iPhone apps or teleconferencing interfaces. One idea in particular became a bit of an obsession: creative flow. How could Adobe’s customers ignore the toolbars they’d been plagued with for so long and chisel away at their art without having to click the lasso tool?
Ink & Slide started as what Gough called a "provocation" to make Adobe designers think differently about their own tools, and through enough coaxing, became a fully fledged product, designed by one of the best industrial design firms in the Valley, Ammunition. The system eventually went on sale for $200. The hardware, and software interface, was pretty cool, if redundant. But it only worked with a few Adobe iPad apps, Ink and Sketch, neither of which I’ve ever heard of a designer using outside of Adobe. To be honest, I’m not sure Gough cared. Over the course of a few conversations we had, it was obvious that commercial success was less important to him than adding to the greater art and science of interface research, and positioning Adobe at the epicenter of the amorphously controlled future to come.
Fast forward just two years, and Scott Belsky is taking Adobe in a spiritually similar, but logistically different direction. He, too, wants to unchain creators from the mouse and keyboard. But thus far, Belsky’s approach has been about developing Adobe’s fragmented, experimental mobile apps into purpose-driven tools, all while leveraging the Creative Cloud as a way to multitask across apps—even those apps that aren’t built or sold by Adobe.
While Belsky’s never told me that Ink & Slide are dead to the company, he’s never included them as part of the vision, either. And now, as Apple finally releases a stylus of its own, Ink & Slide are on a fire sale. The hardware platform obviously isn't the future for Adobe, and for $30 you can now score a piece of its short-lived past.
We’ve reached out to Adobe for further comment.