LiveScribe Developer Day Highlights (14 Jan 2010)

LiveScribe just had a developer day where LiveScribe talked to a number of topics.  Slides of the presentation are available here.  Highlights are:

  • Partial results from a survey of LiveScribe users
  • More details on on competition
  • Roadmap of future features

They even had a special guest – James Gosling of Java fame.  Applications on the pen are written using J2ME.

Survey Results

How happy are users?  According to the survey, 72% said the pen had changed the way they work.  91% rated the pen as good or excellent (on a 5 point scale).

Note: they did not report how many said it was bad (as distinct from “average”)!  There have been quite a few complaints in the LiveScribe forums about the quality of the software driving the pen, including all sorts of upgrade issues to the most recent desktop.  Its hard to judge how widespread the problem is (many have reported everything worked perfectly for them).  Forums tend to be visited by people with problems rather than people without, so the audience is probably skewed.  On the other hand, the survey was probably taken before the most recent desktop upgrades were released.

What do users say they want from the survey?  Productivity tools, utilities, and education were the top three (in that order).  Reference was a bit lower, and everything else dropped away significantly.

How many pens are out there?  Around 300,000 pens have been sold.  A useful figure to know if you are thinking of developing an app for the pen.  (The SDK is free.  LiveScribe will take a commission from pen sales.  The only outlay is US$100 to get a third party testing group to approve your application before you can get it into the store.)


LiveScribe now have a beta application store up.  There are a few apps there.  To try and kick start additional apps,they are running a competition Dec 7th 2009 to Feb 13th 2010 with a few categories with a US$5,000 prize in each.


The roadmap was interesting, but a little disappointing.

  • The “Desktop SDK” which will allow data to get out of the pen is now not available until 2010Q2.  It looks like full functionality will only initially be available from C# apps (sorry Mac users!).  Not being a C# programmer, this was a disappointment.  The desktop API just keeps to keep slipping later and later.
  • They are working on a knowledge based for Q1.  That should be useful.  The current documentation is pretty basic, and lacking as soon as you try to write a non-trivial application.
  • There is an emulator planned which should make debugging easier.  I assume you use the mouse instead of a pen – it will be interesting to see if you can control a mouse as accurate as a pen (for doing handwriting for example).  Not sure if this will help with automated testing of penlets (pen applications).





I still believe LiveScribe need to clean up the quality of their base functionality.  There are also many obvious gaps in desktop functionality.  My biggies are:

  • Inability to export an audio session to a file for sharing (you can only do this now by uploading to the LiveScribe web site – no use for corporate usage)
  • No way to delete pages, tag, or otherwise organize content.
  • No way for apps to get data out of the pen.

The continued lack of desktop SDK is a sore point to me.  The app store value is a bit questionable at the moment.  Coming up with useful apps when you cannot get data off the pen is pretty hard.  But the emulator was a nice surprise.  And they have published a roadmap, something LiveScribe don’t have a great reputation for.

With a market size of 300,000, if say one in a hundred users by an app, that’s 3,000 sales.  I doubt iPhone style $1 apps are going to make a profit!

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