Microsoft's Courier tablet: A Franklin Covey planner on steroids?

Summary:Gizmodo has posted another video of Microsoft's alleged Courier tablet in action. And I'm hearing some new (but unverified) tidbits, too, especially around Courier's possible positioning and timing.

Since the first video and photo leaks went public last week of Microsoft's alleged second-generation Tablet PC, tipsters have been working overtime.

Since Microsoft isn't commenting at all on Courier (the official statement is "we don't comment on rumors or speculation"), it's tough to separate fact from fiction at this point.

But some tipsters are a little more connected than others. And one of my connected tipsters has shared some new info with me that I'm posting now, given that it seems more verifiable.

I say "verifiable" here, not in an official sense, but based on a new Courier video clip Gizmodo posted on September 29. Gizmodo's new clip shows more details about the journaling model around which Courier's user interface seems to revolve. From Gizmodo's explanation:

"The (Courier) journal can actually be published online, and it's shown here as able to be downloaded in three formats: a Courier file, Powerpoint or PDF. There's also a library that looks a lot like Delicious Library, where things like subscriptions, notebooks and apps, are stored."

That sure makes the Courier sound like it fits in with Microsoft's uber-"three screens and a cloud" vision -- via which devices, TVs and PCs all share common cloud-based services, storage, etc.

The Courier journaling metaphor isn't so different from Microsoft's OneNote note-taking app that is currently the showcase app for existing tablet PCs, my "connected" source said. He explained:

"The concept started as a software idea on how one would really build OneNote from scratch if you could for the Tablet form factor. That then morphed into building a tablet. If you look at the most successful pocket computer today - it is still the Franklin Covey Planning Products. So, the idea was how do you create a digital planner."

My source also claimed that the operating system underneath Courier is -- at least currently -- Windows 7. (That's not as crazy as it might seem, given that the OS underlying Microsoft's Surface is Vista -- and Windows 7 is touch-enabled.)

You can't install Windows 7 apps on Courier, the source said, and that's intentional.

The original Microsoft Tablets "failed because the applications were not tailored to a tablet form factor - that is, Word still had toolbars and menus and scollbars. So, a tablet needs to be like an iPhone - a UX that is specific for the form factor," the source said.

My source said that Courier is an incubation project, meaning it's further along than a Microsoft Research project, but still not in the commercialization pipeline. That said, he heard the  delivery goal is mid-2010. That seems pretty darn ambitious to me, but he also said Microsoft is currently leaning toward using the Xbox model -- in other words, making the device itself, and not relying on its current Tablet partners -- so that could speed things up a bit.

I can't verify any of what my source has told me. But I figured I'd put it out there, as it jibes with what Gizmodo has unearthed.

What's your take? Is the Courier protoype we're hearing and seeing bits and pieces about something you could see having wider appeal than the current generation of Tablets?

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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