Will Apple Pencil be Wooden Pencil Killer: A Study of comparing Apples and Oranges

Phil Schiller on 9th September 2015 introduced Apple Pencil with the iPad Pro, at Apple Special Event in Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Fancisco. A few in the audience giggled hearing the name “Apple Pencil” , the remaining developers and employees of Apple saw potential.

While the struggle for Pencil industry has been resisting the likes of pens ( overlap in ownership with pencils) , type-writers (dead), digital input devices like keyboards and now Stylus . The stylus has been around for some good time now, and some in the Pencil industry have embraced it. They also developed technology to capture handwritten notes and pencils with stylus on the other side.

The 254 year-old Faber-Castell , is facing competition from cheaper alternatives in developing markets , while Bic, world’s largest pen and pencil maker by sales has fend them off by entering such markets decades back . “We do well in Africa and South America because we arrived about 50 years ago, and offer quality products at an affordable price,” said Benoît Marotte,director of Bic’s stationery business.

Certificate of Sharpening that David Rees sends along a $40 “perfectly” manual sharpened yellow number-2

Its worth mentioning David Rees of artisanalpencilsharpening.com makes money for his “Artisanal and age old art of manual sharpening”. It people like David who still see pencil as more than a writing device but a symbol of something bigger ! As Lori Booker, spokeswoman for U.S.-based Dixon Ticonderoga, known for its yellow “Number-Two” pencils, says “People are rediscovering the feel of a freshly sharpened pencil,”.

Schiller also launched the new Notes app which will allow users to sketch and improved functionality in Mail app , to doodle on them ! I would recommend using the doodle-reply feature at your risk ( Although, Gmail mobile app has that feature at the time of Pencil launch.)

Apple has its own history with the stylus being part of Apple Newton. But on a deeper level it traces back to former CEO Steve Jobs, who famously said in 2007 at the initial iPhone reveal, “Who wants a stylus? You have to get em’, put em’ away. You lose them. Yuck.” and “Fingers- the best pointing device. The pointing device that we are born with”.

Technologies have evolved since 2007, Capacitive touchscreen changed the game and also took down resistive touch. Also, the screen size for which Jobs rejected the stylus was 3.5 inch and the iPad Pro is 12.9 inch across. So, a graphic designs will turn away from his Wacom graphic tablets to the new iPad.

Graf von Faber-Castell

The pricing is non-competitive as Apple Pencil at $99 v/s $0.50 pencil ( or lower ) . The launch comes at a time when Faber-Castell’s new line of premium writing instruments, called “Graf von Faber-Castell,” which is sold mainly in Germany, Italy and France marks it second year. A platinum-plated “perfect pencil,” which has its own built-in sharpener and eraser, costs about €200 ($253). A diamond-encrusted version has sold for as much as €10,000. The adjoining cost of Pencil is an $799 iPad pro, for the Graf it’s just a humble paper to write on … ( only till the leads lasts)

Sources of that demand, however, are shifting. Emerging markets are increasingly important to pen and pencil makers thanks to rising wealth and literacy rates. Developing countries in Asia and Latin America are big growth drivers. In Asia, pencil sales are set to rise 5.4% to $1 billion this year and in Latin America by 7% to $526 million, according to Euromonitor.

While going paperless, an initiative by Evernote, if it convinces 7 billion population might just spell the end of the $2 billion industry, I would advice the centureies old Faber-Castell to Pivot away from Pencil !