A Tablet stylus and/or a user's finger aren't the be-all and end-all when it comes to future data-input methods in which Microsoft is investing.
There's a new Microsoft "On 10" video that highlights three other Microsoft Research projects focused on alternate means of data input. (Thanks to the "Microsoft At Home and At Work" team for the video link.) The three research projects -- which might find their way into current or future Microsoft products at some point down the line -- are:
InkSeine: An inking application that allows users to search -- on their hard drives, as well as across the Web -- directly from ink, without transcribing queries to a search box somewhere else. There are more than 500 Microsoft employees experimenting internally with InkSeine, according to researcher Ken Hinckley. Hinckley suggested if InkSeine ever were to be productized, it might work well as a feature in Microsoft Journal or the Microsoft InfoPath online-forms application.
LucidTouch: A multitouch prototype with a twist. Instead of using one's finger on top of a touch screen to interact with a mobile device, what would happen if a light source behind a screen provided a "shadow" of one's fingers, which could be used to "point" and touch type? Accuracy rates would vastly improve, especially for applications like texting on a multi-touch flat screen, the Softies say. There's no Microsoft Research page I could find for LucidTouch, but perhaps it is a derivative of Play Anywhere.
Soap: An optical mouse integrated with a mousepad. A user can push and pull on the soap-sized squish-ball to manipulate a cursor. And the device, when sewed up into a pretty package, would be less obtrusive in a living room or a mobile setting, Microsoft is betting.
Any of these sound like something you'd like to try? So far none of them seems to be available to the public, but perhaps that will change soon....