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

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.

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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 has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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72 comments
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  • Nice to see true innovation at work

    At least one tech company is still working on
    innovation using the classical definition of the
    term instead of the new, hijacked definition which
    seems to be: [i]Innovation: putting your brand
    logo on what others have been selling for
    years and then paying astro-turfers to visit blog
    sites and proclaim how innovative your rebranding
    effort is.[/i]
    NonZealot
    • I like it.

      Folks, this isn't a "Tablet" - it's a true notebook. Remember those
      things with the wire binding and cover that takes analog notes? They
      fold up, they open up. Very nice - as a UI it's worked well for
      hundreds of years.

      Not sure if the scale is correct. A full sized note book is an 8 1/2 by
      11 page. The small one I use most often has a 10 inch diagonal 5 1/2
      by 8 1/2 page. Opens to a 14 inch diagonal 11 by 8 1/2 page.

      Using the "spine" is a good idea. If they can use it to create a single
      full page it will be genius.

      I think the key lesson from the Apple App store is to make the device
      easy to program, and then let the world develop for it. I've got Apps
      I'd never have asked for, because I didn't even think of the need - but
      - now that I've got them - I don't want to give them up! I mean,
      who'd have thought I'd want 4 different calculators and 4 different
      weather programs. Each is ideal for a certain kind of work - or
      weather view - and I'm delighted that I can choose how I want to
      work, vs. some marketing team deciding how I want to view the
      weather, or crunch some numbers.

      Looking forward to seeing what finally reaches the outside world.
      bgrh
    • Your right, what a novel concept

      I wonder who at Microsoft could have ever come up with an idea of a laptop with two LCDs.

      http://www.engadget.com/2009/01/28/olpc-2-0-dual-touchscreen-mockup-surfaces-in-the-wild/

      http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/news/2009/03/olpc-project-to-adopt-arm-processors.ars

      http://www.cio.com/article/365172/OLPC_Announces_Next_Gen_XO_2_75_Laptop

      nucrash
      • You forgot Apple's Knowledge Navigator concept tablet 12 years back

        Not to say MS is not doing a great job coming up with something. But heck.
        12 years later after Apple. WE WANT INOVATION.

        Both are mockups and neither shows a real intrface.
        Bruizer
    • No, you just don't know the meaning of the word. [nt]

      [nt]
      olePigeon
    • Are you not astro turf for MS

      I have always assumed you were an astro-turf for MS.

      BTW: this looks to be cool design coming from MS. This is nice considering
      their normal Soviet based industrial design.
      Bruizer
    • Ok....

      So Courier is true innovation... as per... [i]putting your brand logo on what others have been selling for years and then paying astro-turfers[/i] since the iPhone and Palm Pre have done this in a [b]real[/b] fashion and not controlled demos, like Surface and now Courier.

      Remember... after Origami... every other Microsoft concept seems to-good-to-be-true, or worse yet, as Surface; end up in niche market with an impossible API to use which later is replaced by another different API (aka Windows Touch)...

      In the end, it's not the concepts that matter, but the implementation is... just ask HP what happened with their TouchSmart PCs...
      cosuna
    • Innovation, not Invention

      Innovation is, basically, any change (usually perceived as an improvement) you make on a concept previously invented by you or someone else.
      Innovation can not only be acheived by turning an original concept around, but by devising a different (more efficient perhaps?)way to produce it and/or support it and/or market it. The final objective for the so called "innovators" is to add value to their businesses by being more efficient in puting a succesfull product in the market. Consumers usually benefit from that.
      That is what innovation is, which, by the way, is the foundation of the modern world we all enjoy.
      Inventions are great, but NOBODY starts benefiting from them until innovators come into play.
      aleizabar
      • Good take on innovation

        +1

        One of my former employers is now a dominant player in the mobile device market primarily due to innovation in logistics. Their devices are good, but they continue to be so successful because they can deliver relatively (relative to competitors) good quality devices at reasonable prices.

        Oh, and the fact that they started doing so over a decade ago means they have a very strong brand :-)

        Innovation isn't just about how cool it would be if we had something that would let us do X,Y,Z.
        zdnet-gregc
    • True innovation?

      Does that make the Nintendo DS non-existent? Hmmm... clamshell design, dual LCD screens, touch screen, Wi-Fi. Availability in 2004.

      Ahh, true innovation lives on.

      If you had cared to spend some time searching for information and less time contemplating the lining of your colon, you would find several examples of dual screen laptops. Lenovo has one though its screen are side by side and not having the second screen where the keyboard normally lives. One that had the dual screens with one on each side of the clamshell was called the Canola(??)-- not sure of the name and not about to waste any more time to research it. A Taiwanese manufacturer also had their concept of a dual screen laptop at CeBit though I recall that this was not even close to production. Neat looking unit though.

      Yep, good old Microsoft innovation by copying other's ideas.
      DNSB
  • RE: Courier: Microsoft's new take on the Tablet PC?

    First off, this is a really cool looking prototype. Second, I
    would hearken to what others raise; namely, when will the
    real product ship and what's the OS and tools side of the
    equation, as Apple has pretty much shown this to be the
    bar for success.

    Clearly, Apple learned this lesson from Microsoft (in PC
    1.0) but MS feels long removed from those days (i.e.,
    cultivating and growing a software centered ecosystem),
    especially in light of all of the legacy that they have to
    support.

    Btw, here are some thoughts on where Apple's Tablet and
    the e-Book is headed:

    Rebooting the Book (One Apple iPad Tablet at a Time):
    http://bit.ly/zOoEu

    Check it out if interested.

    Mark
    hypermark
    • Revisionist history in play

      Was the iPhone successful before the app store?

      I believe so, which makes your revisionist cow pattie just that.
      Surur
  • RE: Courier: Microsoft's new take on the Tablet PC?

    An ingenious solution to a need nobody has !
    The DataRat
    • I think you meant...

      An ingenious solution to a need YOU do not have !
      planruse
      • "You" writ large

        .
        IT_User
        • Thank you, I should have wrote..

          a letter I instead of the word YOU.
          planruse
  • RE: Courier: Microsoft's new take on the Tablet PC?

    Looks just great!! I hope Msft. does not just sit on it for a long time. This would be hot in the market, NOW!!
    james@...
  • More:

    More info, pictures and videos of Microsoft Courier: http://gizmodo.com/5365299/courier-first-details-of-microsofts-secret-tablet

    Looks damn cool
    shellcodes_coder
  • Chasing after Apple again?

    With all the fuss, artist renderings of "concepts", and rumors leaking from Chinese manufacturers about Apple's upcoming line of tablet computers -- it sure seems funny Microsoft suddenly drags this idea out of nowhere!

    I think Microsoft's recent focus seems to be following in Apple's footsteps, hoping their success will rub off on them?

    They're trying to hire away Apple store management for new Microsoft stores (being strategically placed as close to Apple stores as possible in malls, no less), and now this too?

    Really, it may be a perfectly good product from MS. I'm all for innovation and competition. But right off the bat, not sure I'm that excited about the clamshell "dual screen, side by side" concept? Like dual display systems, it's still nicer to have one big display, all else being equal. (Annoying having to look at a large drawing or image with it spanning 2 screens, interrupted by their borders on the edges.)
    kingtj
    • Actually, Microsoft had it first

      Apple is the one following.

      It takes a lot longer to design a prototype a unit, much longer then the "release" of these Apple sketches and rumors.

      Besides, Microsoft had long since delevoped and released a Tablet version of their operating system, Apples' iPhone (the closest thing they have) came much later.

      Add to that development long ago on the surface technology, it would seem that Apple took the idea and scaled it down to the iPhone.

      No, Microsoft has been developing for tablets much longer then Apple has, if they evn are.
      GuidingLight