Courier: Microsoft's new take on the Tablet PC?

Summary:On the heels of my updated rumor on what Microsoft is doing to breathe new life into the Tablet PC, Gizmodo.com has published a video and screen shots of "Courier," a new kind of Tablet-like PC allegedly in development at Microsoft.

On the heels of my updated rumor on what Microsoft is doing to breathe new life into the Tablet PC, Gizmodo.com has published a video and screen shots of "Courier," a new kind of Tablet-like PC allegedly in development at Microsoft.

I've already gotten a few questions from readers as whether this is the same Microsoft Tablet Take 2 that I wrote about recently. My honest answer: I don't know, but I'd bet so.

Gizmodo showed off a sneak peek of a video of the Courier device in action during a press-only party in New York on September 22 to mark the opening of the Gizmodo Gallery. The video of the device -- which, as Gizmodo notes, was recorded by Microsoft partner Pioneer Studios -- shows a prototype of a clamshell-type device with two touch screens connected by a hinge. While users can interact with the  device using multitouch, they also can use a stylus/pen.

A couple of things I noticed in the Giz video that lead me to believe this might be the new Tablet PC/Surface combo about which I've gotten tips:

  • The video includes a "Nicolas Allard" in a list of client names in a sample Journal entry on the device. J Allard, Microsoft's Chief Experience Officer for its Entertainment & Devices division, is rumored to be the main driver of the new Tablet.
  • The "Journals" metaphor shown in the video may be connected to InkSeine, a Microsoft Research project in incubation (which means it's somewhere between pure research and productization). Here's Microsoft's description of InkSeine: "The goal of the InkSeine project is to completely rethink the user interface for tablet computers. Some people have described InkSeine as 'Windows Journal on steroids.' But InkSeine goes well beyond Windows Journal, particularly in its features to search from ink and to easily drag hyperlinks for documents and web pages into your notes.

Courier sounds like one of what could be a number of different Tablet-like devices from the Alchemy Ventures group with which my sources say Allard is affiliated. (The other Microsoft exec I've heard is part of this new Tablet remake is Peter Thompson, the General Manager of Microsoft Surface, for what it's worth.)

Update: Another rumored version of the new Microsoft Tablet -- with the codename "Codex," not "Courier" -- can be seen on site of tech enthusiast Manan Kakkar. The Codex pictures show a clamshell device with a pair of four-inch touch screens. Kakkar says the device is running the InkSeine software, which I mention above. Codex was/is a Microsoft Research project. Could Codex be the precursor to Courier? Your guess is as good as mine....

Microsoft is not commenting on Courier or offering a possible timetable for the release of any kind of new Tablet PC, manufactured by Microsoft and/or its OEM partners. No word from Gizmodo (at least so far) on what the operating system is behind the Courier prototype shown in the video.

I'm known for not being much of a Tablet fan. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, on the other hand, is the No. 1 backer of the Tablet. Do you think Courier -- if it is really Microsoft's next generation Tablet -- is more likely to be successful than the original Tablets were?

Topics: Hardware, Laptops, Microsoft, Mobility, Tablets

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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