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Smart Pen Maker Livescribe Being Bought by Sweden's Anoto

Livescribe attracted a niche market of frequent notetakers, but struggled to grow beyond its initial product idea.

Asa Mathat

Smart pen maker Livescribe said Friday it is selling itself to Sweden’s Anoto Group, another player in the digital writing space.

Livescribe carved out a niche with students and notetakers with a line of pens that synchronize handwritten notes with audio recordings of classes and meetings. However, as a small hardware maker, it struggled to go beyond its initial product concept, on which it has iterated a few times since debuting the first model at the D: All Things Digital conference in 2007.

 The most recent of its smart pens, the Livescribe 3
The most recent of its smart pens, the Livescribe 3
Livescribe

Anoto, meanwhile, makes the technology that allows digital pens from several companies — including those from Livescribe — to write ink on paper at the same time the notes are being digitized for use on a computer.

Terms of the deal — expected to close later this month — were not disclosed by the companies. A source told Re/code the purchase price was more than the $10 million the company raised in 2012 but less than the total amount that Livescribe had raised over time.

Livescribe has about 40 to 50 employees.

Anoto said the move will allow the company to expand its own lineup of products into the consumer arena where Livescribe has focused, while expanding Livescribe’s reach beyond that market.

“At Anoto, we are developing a universal platform that enables precision pen input on paper, displays and walls — from small sticky notes to ultra-large displays,” Anoto CEO Stein Revelsby said in an email interview. “The advantages of having a single pen technology that works on multiple surfaces are many.”

As for why now, Revelsby said that “recent developments in the market point to a growing opportunity for the solutions Livescribe has offered, but across a broader set of surfaces and devices.”

“The digital pen category is at an inflection point: Consider the announcement of Apple’s iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, the way Microsoft has embraced writing on glass with Surface and Windows 10, and stylus support for Samsung Galaxy Tab and Note products,” he said. “The industry is now starting to understand that it is imperative to allow users to interact with various technologies in the way they want, seamlessly across inputs including pen, screen, keyboard and mouse, voice and more.”

Revelsby said the two companies are already working on new products to be jointly launched next year.

“Although we are not ready to make any specific announcements, we can say that future products will be marketed beyond consumers,” he said, pointing to the creative and office-collaboration markets as areas of specific interest.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.