Microsoft nixes plans for its dual-screen Courier tablet

Microsoft nixes plans for its dual-screen Courier tablet

Summary: Microsoft has decided to cancel Courier -- the next-generation tablet that was in incubation at the company. Pieces of the Courier project still may materialize in other Microsoft products at some point, but there are no concrete plans to that effect, Microsoft officials said on April 29.

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Microsoft has decided to cancel Courier -- the next-generation tablet that was in incubation at the company.

On April 29, Gizmodo was the first to report Microsoft's decision. Corporate Vice President Frank Shaw gave me the same statement he gave to Giz:

"At any given time, we're looking at new ideas, investigating, testing, incubating them. It's in our DNA to develop new form factors and natural user interfaces to foster productivity and creativity. The Courier project is an example of this type of effort. It will be evaluated for use in future offerings, but we have no plans to build such a device at this time."

I'm kind of surprised at the timing, given Microsoft recently confirmed to The New York Times what I'd been hearing for the past few months: That Courier was on track to hit the market in 2011+. Word is the decision to nix Courier happened in the past week or so.

Courier was going to be a kind of "Franklin Covey planner on steroids," according to early mock-ups of the product. Supposedly, Chief Experience Officer J Allard was the main mover and shaker behind the Courier project.

Courier was an incubation project, meaning it was closer to being commercialized than a Microsoft Research project, but not yet actually in the production pipeline.

Microsoft has had -- and continues to have -- a number of incubation projects active at any given time. The Midori operating system project is another incubation project at the company. NetDocs -- Microsoft's precursor to Office Web Apps, which the company decided to kill in the early 2000's -- was another.

I'm still expecting Microsoft to commercialize some of the technologies that comprised Courier at some point. Maybe they'll show up as part of the Windows 8 or Windows 9 operating system. Who knows...

Microsoft is not commenting on why the company decided to eliminate the Courier incubation. Theories, anyone?

Topics: Hardware, Laptops, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software, Tablets, Windows

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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58 comments
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  • HP's purchase of Palm a factor?

    The timing is probably coincidental, but you gotta
    wonder if Microsoft is punishing HP for buying
    Palm by cancelling this.

    Then again, if Courier failed, cancelling this now
    could actually help HP. It certainly takes one
    competitor to a webOS tablet out of the picture.
    tcooper185@...
    • Courier never looked promising

      Don't know why they designed it to be foldable.
      LBiege
      • I like the idea

        makes it smaller for travel, while better screen protection (panels folding face to face).
        John Zern
        • They do have the tools to make better tablets now

          It could be powered by Win7, WinCE7 or SilverLight 4 for their future tablets. The later two are probably better choices.
          LBiege
    • How does this punish HP?

      When it was a MS product.

      Likewise, projects are seldom canceled with only a single days thought.
      Bruizer
    • HP connection?

      Hi. I think Bruizer is right... MS couldn't/wouldn't react this fast to HP/Palm this way...

      I also think MS was probably thinking about "making" Courier itself, the same way it "makes" the Xbox and Zune -- especially given that J Allard was supposedly spearheading the Courier project (like he did Xbox and Zune)... Just a pure guess on that part, though... MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
    • UH, Microsoft was to make (head) Courier. HP has their own tablet.

      Nice try. The only one to blame is Microsoft (unless you blame Apple for having such a hugely successful iPad!).

      Oh, but wait. The HP Slate has been pulled out of production. Guess that was vapor too!

      So much for the iPad killers!
      The Danger is Microsoft
    • Punishing HP?

      Your partner reveal plans to develop their own tablet, so you drop your own offering? And you are supposed to punish them exiting the market?

      I wonder if they still teach logic at school...
      theo_durcan
    • tablet-netbook = i-pad-killer

      I think microsoft and HP are beginning to understand that the real tablet-pc of the future are already on the markte. This is what they look like: http://www.gadgetvenue.com/acer-aspire-timeline-1820ptz-ready-preorder-12104533/

      They are called tablet-netbooks. They combine the portability, touchpad and battery life of the i-pad, with the advantages of a true netbook: in-built, camera, an upright and adjustable screen, interfaces USB, VGA, LAN, WLAN, Bluetooth, HDMI, exchangeable battery, upgradeable RAM, freedom to install any application....
      kikl
  • If people are gravitating towards flat panel pads

    as opposed to one that flips open (IMHO, a safer design in terms of screen protection), then that's the way to go.

    The cost would likely be more, and it's a pretty competative market, so sometime a superior design has to be put to the side in order to produce a competative model.

    It's a shame, as a 9" screen that could fold into a 4.5 size is a nice idea, while protecting the screens much better then one constantly exposed to outside accidents.
    John Zern
  • RE: Microsoft nixes plans for its dual-screen Courier tablet

    That sucks, I really liked the Courier concept. It had such great potential. We can only hope that they take the concept and work on a "Courier 2.0". That thing would have sold millions had they released it.
    Loverock Davidson
    • What would you do with a 999,900 Couriers?

      Just wondering.
      Bruizer
      • Sell them!

        and they would go like hotcakes.
        Loverock Davidson
        • Maybe they would...

          provided you priced them as hotcakes.
          Great Kahuna
        • If MS could not sell them, how would you?

          The Courier, as demonstrated, had many serious flaws in its gestures
          making the device:

          1) Purely a work of fiction released as a red-herring to counter the iPad.

          2) Gestures that were so nuanced the device would be almost impossible
          to use.

          If 1, it is academic. They don't (or ever would) exist.

          If 2, then no one would want one.
          Bruizer
    • but ...

      ... you understand that it is a looooooooooong way from a few fancy
      concept videos to an actual product, dontya?
      banned from zdnet again and again
      • Yes I do

        But the concept was awesome. I guess we'll never know why they did it.
        Loverock Davidson
        • The concept may have been awesome but that's not enough

          You need execution to support the concept and execution is an area where Microsoft tends to fall short. The dog-eat-dog culture, internal politics (remember, today's Microsoft is, above all a legal powerhouse) all that concurs to destroy all efforts to actually do something.
          Great Kahuna
        • Congratulations

          You took the first step.

          Admitting you don't know.

          Next step is to realize the scope of things you don't know, yet tend to comment on anyways.
          Viva la crank dodo
  • The first iPad killer to formally die. (nt)

    nt
    Bruizer