After the September 2009 release of some questionable photos and videos on Gizmodo and other sites, many tech writers wrote off the existence of a Microsoft project to re-invent the tablet PC. Now, with new pictures and video on Engadget last week, the focus is back on the Microsoft Courier.
What the Courier looks like
If the videos are to be believed, the Microsoft Courier tablet/e-book device is about an inch thick, weighs about a pound, and is slightly larger than a 5x7 photo when closed, which gives it two 8-9 inch screens. The interface is designed to be pen-based and seems to be geared for blogging and collaborating within a special site designed for this device. The usability, as demonstrated, kind of reminds me of the Microsoft Surface device; it has flicking objects around on the screen, a multi-touch interface, and gesture-based interaction, as well as the pen.
What ZDNet bloggers think
On the day that Engadget posted the new photos and video, ZDNet blogger Mary Jo Foley discussed what operating system this new device will run. Early reports from September suggested Windows 7, while the recent demo video seems to lean more toward the newly-combined Windows CE/Zune OS, now being called Windows Phone OS 7.0. The argument takes two sides: one is that since Windows is Microsoft's cash cow, this device will run on that OS, especially since Steve Ballmer demonstrated the new HP slate device at this year's CES; the other side says that Microsoft may want to save power, so will run it on a Tegra system, which would require Windows Phone OS 7.0.
ZDNet blogger Zack Whittaker continues to question the validity and existence of this device. He believes that by stitching together several Microsoft Research projects, they could have most of this product finished. Having said all of that, Zack still believes that this device could be a sort of second-coming and may perhaps even replace laptops.
What I think
For me, this is another example of Microsoft coming just a bit too late into the game, and lately it seems to be against Apple. Apple releases the iPod family, then Microsoft releases the Zune. Apple releases the iPhone, then Microsoft combines the Zune OS with the Windows CE OS to create Windows Phone OS 7.0. Now, Apple announces the iPad, and we see credible photo and video about Microsoft Courier. It all seems a bit too much for me from Redmond. Microsoft should get back on the development bandwagon and create a new idea, not just copy someone else's ideas with their own spin.
So, if this device is real and goes to market, would I buy one? That depends. If it runs on Windows 7 and "Windows 8," there's a decent chance I would buy it. A device that will run all of my current Windows applications (including a full version of Microsoft Office), allow me to write on the screen, and still be small enough to fit comfortably in a bag has a lot of appeal. On the other hand, if Microsoft punts and puts Windows Phone OS 7.0 on it, this will be just like the iPad -- a device with a niche market that has limited functionality due to it being a super-giant smartphone. The number one item that would make a Windows Mobile tablet better than the iPad to me is the fact that it is a clamshell design, so I wouldn't have to worry about scratching or damaging the screen.
Share your thoughts about the Courier
Watch the Engadget videos below and then let us know what you think of the Courier. First, do you think the device exists? If so, do you think it will hit market Q3/Q4 of 2010 as claimed, or do you think it will take at least 2011 before we see it?Where the geeky things are Need a break from the daily grind? Then sign up for TechRepublic's Geekend newsletter, delivered each Friday. You'll receive off-topic chatter about all things geeky, including science fiction, movies, gaming, books, space, gadgets, and more. Automatically subscribe today!