It may seem like an uphill battle, but Livescribe is still trying to replace the 99-cent ballpoint pen with a $199 computerized smartpen known as the Pulse. And it’s not doing such a bad job at it.
Today, the company is launching a couple of new models that will expand its line-up of Pulse pens, and it is also expanding its sales reach by signing up Best Buy, Apple Stores, and Staples as new retailers. The pen is already sold through Amazon.com and Target stores.
The appeal of Livescribe’s digital pen is that it can record lectures while you take notes and it can translate your handwriting into text. Livescribe has a built-in computer and flash memory. With that, it can store audio and handwriting and synchronize between the two. If you put your pen on some notes that you have written during a lecture, the optical reader in the pen will detect the words. The pen can then play back the audio that you were hearing as you wrote down those words. That’s a terrific tool for college students listening to their professors. You don’t have to worry about missing something that the speaker said. That’s just one of many benefits that come from the digital capture and recall system that is built into the smartpen and its accompanying smart paper. Other benefits: you can highlight some words and it will translate them into another language.
The company will now offer Pulse pens with 2 gigabytes ($169.95) or 4 gigabytes ($199.95) of flash memory. The latter can store more than 400 hours of audio.
For $249.95, Livescribe is also offering the Pro-Pack bundle, a new option for the business professional. The Pro-Pack includes the 4GB Pulse smartpen in a black color, an A5 size starter notebook, a leather carrying case, handwriting to text transcription software, and the new Pro Charging Cradle.
Livescribe says it has been pleased with the sales of its pens. The company won’t say exactly how much it has sold since launching in the spring of 2008, but it says the numbers are well into the six figures. By no means is that an outstanding performance. But it certainly looks like it’s enough to keep Livescribe in the game as it tries to educate more people about the benefits of spending lots of money on a pen.
The company was founded in 2007 and has 70 employees. Over its history, the company has raised $48.8 million. Investors include Aeris Capital, Lionhart Investments, and Vantage Point Venture Partners. There are related smart pens on the market from Leapfrog Enterprises, but those pens are aimed at much younger users. Livescribe targets its smart pens at college students and adults.
Later this year, Livescribe plans to launch an application store, much like Apple’s iPhone AppStore, where users can download apps related to entertainment, education or productivity. Livescribe encourages partners to create third-party applications for the pens.