Can Microsoft and Apple work in harmony to deliver the digital notebook experience?

A note taker at heart

Over the years I have loved my pen and notebook. From my days at the university, I have been a prolific note taker. I love the process of taking notes. But taking notes is only one part of my daily routine. I also need to retrieve information that I have written. That’s a whole different story.

I have cataloged my notes in date sequence. To find the notes for a particular meeting, I would go to my calendar to find the date of the meeting to quickly get to the notes for that date. Still, I would not be able to search the notes unless I manually retyped the notes in applications like Microsoft OneNote or other note-taking software. This was a cumbersome process of taking notes and then retyping them again just to have the search function work on them.

Being a tech addict, I have been searching for the replacement of the pen and notebook since the first Palm Pilot with its pen. Of course the Palm Pilot made me relearn how I wrote the alphabet. The PDA was good for contacts but not good for note taking.

The advent of the first iPad and the stylus was cause for great excitement. Finally, a digital notebook would be a reality. Much to my disappointment, the stylus experience was a disaster. You had to hold it in an unnatural way. Your hand couldn’t touch the iPad. You had to download apps that had their own document storage and format—like Penultimate. You could not draw in Microsoft OneNote on the iPad and therefore could only type your notes rather than use the stylus to enter them.

A better writing experience

Soon after the original iPad, the iPad 2 came along with the same experience. Every year the release of the new iPad would bring up the question of whether I would be able to replace the notebook with a digital notebook. The iPad3 and iPad Air followed with no luck. Finally, last year I started to read about the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. Early reviews promised a better experience. Would this be the era of a true digital notebook?

In December of last year, I got an iPad Pro. The size was really big. After being used to the size of other iPads, the iPad Pro’s size was intimidating. Luckily, it was thin and light for its size. But the device was bigger than a letter pad, which made me wonder if it would be convenient to take into meetings. I soon ordered the Apple Pencil. Much to my disappointment, it was on backorder and took four weeks to be delivered.

Last week, the Apple Pencil finally arrived. I opened the package with great expectations. The packaging was simple. The Apple Pencil was easy to pair with my iPad Pro. I looked for applications that would allow me to use the stylus.

In parallel I had read that Microsoft had finally updated the Microsoft OneNote app to be able to use the stylus across all iPads.

Handwriting recognized

I opened up Microsoft OneNote. I started writing like I would naturally write, part of my hand resting on the iPad. I had quickly written up a whole page. The experience was natural. I stored the document as a new notebook. I used the draw function to erase words that I had written in error. I highlighted important parts of my notes. The page looked better than most of my notes that I had taken with a normal pen and paper. Microsoft OneNote stored all the notebooks in the cloud. It synchronized the notebook as I was writing. After finishing my notes, I quit the application.

To test the retrieval feature, I went back to my OneNote notebook. The notebook had my handwritten pages and other electronic pages, so I went to the search function and typed the words that I had highlighted to search for them. To my surprise, not only did it take me to the page, but it was able to recognize my handwriting and take me to the highlighted word.

A powerful digital notebook

The power of a digital notebook is not only input but also the ability to retrieve information. This perfect marriage between Microsoft and Apple created a compelling experience that can potentially make me keep my real notebook at home.

Now that I had a great experience, I am trying to figure out how to carry my Apple Pencil with me like a pen. It is difficult as the Pencil does not have a clip. I had to order a special cover which I can use to store my Apple Pencil. I am also concerned about the battery life of my Pencil and iPad Pro.

This is my first week without my notebook, and I am getting used to the experience. I will write to tell you if I survive the honeymoon phase and make this digital notebook (the marriage of Microsoft and Apple) part of my everyday routine.

What do you think of the digital notebook experience that Microsoft and Apple are trying to create for us? I’d love to hear your view.

Nagaraja Srivatsan

Nagaraja Srivatsan

Srivatsan Nagaraja is Senior Vice President, Venture partner, Cognizant a leading provider of information technology, business consulting, enterprise applications and business process... Read more

  • Harsh

    I was wondering about Apple and Microsoft this morning. Not just this particular use case of note making, but with the release announcement of SQL Server for Linux, It’s clear that the Nadella’s Microsoft want their software services to succeed, with or without Windows succeeding. Software offerings like you mentioned for other platforms indicate that Microsoft is well prepared for post-Windows era. This is a perfect time for a company like Apple to handle the hardware side, and Microsoft to handle software services (Like it was always meant to be 😉 )