Former Microsoft Courier team members launch hot new apps for the iPad

Former Microsoft execs who were associated with the nixed Courier dual-screen tablet project are resurfacing at companies doing Courier-inspired apps for Apple's iPad.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

The spirit of the Courier -- Microsoft's dual screen tablet that never made it to market -- is alive and thriving ... on the iPad. And a number of members of the disbanded Courier team are the ones keeping it so.

FiftyThree Inc. -- the developer of a new content-creation app for the iPad called Paper -- is led by a roster of former Microsoft Courier and  Xbox designers and developers. Another new Courier-like app launched this week from Tapose, a company backed by former Microsoft Courier champion J Allard.

Courier was the dual-screen tablet that was being developed as a skunkworks project inside Microsoft until company brass decided to nix the project in the spring of 2010. Interface-wise, Courier looked something like a Franklin Covey planner on steroids. Microsoft subsequently shuttered Pioneer Studios, which was charged with building “brand driven consumer experiences for Microsoft’s entertainment business: Xbox, Zune, Mobile, and emerging areas,” in May, 2011.

A handful of the designers and developers who formerly worked at Pioneer Studios, the Microsoft unit spearheading the Courier project, have resurfaced at FiftyThree (which takes its name from "the 53 centimeters that magically link head, heart and hand," according to the company's Web site. The team includes, according to the FiftyThree who's who page:

Georg Petschnigg: Co-founder of Pioneer Studios

Jon Harris: Designer who worked on Zune, Xbox and Pioneer Studios brands. Co-founder of the Courier project and of Pioneer Studios

Andrew Allen: Filmmmaker who worked on Courier

Julian Walker: Engineer who worked on graphics and user interface technologies for Microsoft Seadragon, Photosynth, Bing Maps and Silverlight

John Ikeda: Inventor who worked on Xbox accessories including the Xbox 360 game controller and Kinect Allard, former Microsoft Chief Experience Officer who left the company in 2010 (shortly after the Courier project was nixed), was the lead executive backer of Pioneer Studios. Allard has been advising and financially backing the development of Tapose, a Courier-like application for the iPad.

The Tapose team launched their app on the iPad on March 27. It is available for $2.99 in the iTunes store. Team members have said they are considering possibly doing a version of their app for Windows 8.

Microsoft, for its part, has put all its tablet eggs in the Windows 8 basket. The Office team has been working on an app that seemingly includes some ideas and concepts which mimic the Courier, codenamed Moorea. The Office 15 suite won't include a separate Moorea app, I've heard, though some of the marketing slogans bandied about by Moorea developers have shown up in Office 15 documentation.

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