Microsoft working to boost digital ink support across Windows, Office, Surface

Earlier today, we got a pretty good look at the upcoming touch-friendly versions of Office apps for Windows 8.1, thanks to a bunch of screenshots from a Microsoft Research video. Some of those images highlighted handwriting annotations in the apps which, alongside touch navigation and interaction, is an aspect of the user experience that Microsoft is increasingly keen to develop and promote. 

In fact, as Mary Jo Foley reports, Microsoft sees this as an area of such importance that it is striving to ensure that product teams across the company are working together to get it just right. While certain areas of Microsoft have already embraced digital ink and pen input as a core part of their products - examples include OneNote and the Surface Pro tablets, among others - a broader company-wide initiative aims to ensure even better integration of handwriting and ink support across Windows, Office, Surface and Perceptive Pixel displays. 

Mary Jo notes that a 'Cross-Group Inking' team was established in Autumn 2013 - one more example of the pervasive 'One Microsoft' initiative to ensure better collaboration and tighter integration of products throughout the company.

This unified 'One Microsoft Ink' strategy has already established shared design principles across numerous product families, and teams from across MS are continuing to work together on improving the quality of stylus input too, as well as the range of its implementation. As today's Microsoft Research video revealed, one result of this is expected to be broader and better-integrated digital ink support in Windows 9 (currently referred to by its internal codename, 'Threshold'). 

As Windows and Windows Phone also become more closely aligned, it seems inevitable that proper ink support will finally make its way to handsets as well - enabling Windows Phone manufacturers to better compete with the likes of Samsung's Galaxy Note devices. Don't expect that to happen too quickly though. 

Next week, Microsoft will unveil its long-awaited 'Surface mini', which will include extensive digital pen support, as we reported earlier this month. Paul Thurrott of WinSuperSite.com noted that the ARM-based device will "differentiate from the mini tablet competition by providing a very accurate and high quality stylus". 

Source: Mary Jo Foley (ZDNet) | top image via Microsoft Research 

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