Adobe is giving the stylus a second life

July 8, 2013, 11:01 AM UTC
Photo: Sam Kaplan

The electronic stylus has been around since the days of Apple’s ill-fated Newton handheld. But as touchscreens improved, the need for input tools to interact with smartphones and tablets waned. Now Adobe (ADBE) thinks it can make styluses cool again. Its Project Mighty is a slick aluminum pen geared toward artists, architects, and designers. The forthcoming gadget is pressure sensitive and can be used to draw on the surface of an iPad, for instance. It also connects to the cloud, so users can call up their sketches on multiple devices with the click of a button on the side.

The San Jose-based company’s flagship products are software such as Photoshop and InDesign; hardware is a new foray. Adobe enlisted industrial designers Ammunition Group — the firm that created Barnes & Noble’s (BKS) Nook and the Beats by Dr. Dre headphones — and MindTribe, an engineering consultancy, to assist. The result is a three-sided pen with a “bead-blasted” finish and the ability to copy and paste color schemes and clip art across mobile devices. The product is still in an “exploratory” phase — hence the grandiose code name — though it has already gone through several iterations. An earlier version included a cap, which was nixed for fear users might misplace it.

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Adobe isn’t saying when Mighty will be available or how much it will cost. Even so, about 10,000 people signed up to receive information on Mighty in the two weeks after Adobe revealed its plans. There are already smart pens on the market, with prices ranging from about $20 to $200, and the number is growing. “The innovation [on mobile devices] is accelerating very rapidly, and we don’t want to be behind on that,” says Michael Gough, VP of experience design at Adobe. Indeed, if the company has its way, the souped-up stylus will become a must-have accessory once more.

This story is from the July 22, 2013 issue of Fortune.