In What the iPad 3 really needs: fewer stupid articles about the iPad 3, I report on a couple of iPad articles, one of which talks about competing tablets and argues their features should be welded to the iPad. In the comments, Oliver Mason argues:
While I fully agree with most of your article […] the one thing I disagree is the stylus issue: since I bought an Adonit stylus I can use the iPad to replace paper for just jotting down notes in a way that is not possible with one of the ten built-in ones. Maybe it’s been too long since I did finger painting as a kid. True, it is easy-to-lose, but for me it really made the iPad that little bit more useful. One of the few issues where I think Steve got it wrong.
I haven’t felt this myself when using the iPad, and that’s primarily because certain input devices (be they a finger, a mouse, a stylus, or a joypad) are better for certain tasks. I don’t often jot notes on my iPad, and, these days, consider that kind of writing increasingly a niche activity. What I think’s most important is to get the default right in terms of what the user assumes is required. To my mind, a tablet with a stylus is arguing that the stylus is the best way to interact with the device—something Samsung tried to hammer home in its Galaxy Note advert (TUAW). But in over-emphasising a single-touch pointing device, you run the risk of detracting from what makes modern tablets so appealing from an interaction standpoint: multitouch. Being able to more fully immerse yourself in dealing with content by manipulating it directly is leagues ahead of a layer of abstraction that a pointing device provides.
I don’t doubt that there are some cases where a stylus is beneficial, and there are loads of third-party options available for the iPad that people can add to their set-up if they feel the need. But I think Steve Jobs got this dead right: by default, just you and the device is the set-up that is most intuitive, usable and forward-thinking.