Microsoft's Courier tablet dies before it lives
But the melody lingers on
Don't bother asking Microsoft whether its rumored Courier tablet will run Adobe Flash. Microsoft just killed it. Apparently.
After hearing rumors that the oft-discussed-but-never-acknowledged two-display folding tablet had been axed, Gizmodo asked Microsoft for confirmation and received this reply from Redmond's communications veep, Frank Shaw:
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.
Leaving aside his statement that Microsoft's DNA includes the development of new form factors and natural user interfaces, Shaw does acknowledges the existence of the Courier project, but he doesn't specifically hammer the final nails into the concept's coffin.
It appears that Courier was an investigative effort, elements of which may surface in future Microsoft products, but which won't - to use an industry buzzword - be "productized" in the foreseeable future.
And although we're loathe to kick a website when it's reeling from public approbation, Gizmodo made a curious omission when it wrote: "It makes sense for Microsoft to continue to trim away splinter versions of its core operating systems and focus on Windows 7 and Windows Phone 7 unity across all its devices."
There's a third Windows OS that they neglected to mention, and one that may be more appropriate for a tablet form factor such as the one used in the Courier project: Windows Embedded Standard 7, the RTM version of which was announced just this Tuesday at the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) in San José, California.
Perhaps - just perhaps - the Courier project was eliminated because its raison d'être had run its course with the graduation of Windows Embedded 7 Standard from beta to RTM. Of course, Windows Embedded Standard 7 is an OS designed for, well, embedded devices that range - in Microsoft's own listing - from multimedia internet devices to networked media devices to thin clients to fuel pumps (yes, fuel pumps) and more. But that's in its RTM form. Perhaps one variant of it was given a spin as a tablet OS in the Courier Project.
More likely, Windows Embedded Standard 7's graduation and the Courier project's demise occurring within two days of each other is merely a coincidence. In any case, the rumored spate of challengers to Apple's iPad has just been reduced by one.
And if you believe a report from Wednesday's Business Insider, you can add HP's Slate to the drop-out list - which makes sense, seeing as how HP acquired Palm in part because: "We see further opportunities beyond smartphones into additional connected mobile form factors."
In other words, why build a tablet based on a non-mobile operating system such as Windows 7, when a leaner, more communications-integrated operating system such as webOS just dropped into your lap?
So, tablet-rumor followers, now that the Courier has been declared a dead letter "at this time" - and until HP gets it webOS-tablet act together - you'll need to focus on the Asus Eee Pad, Dell Streak, Toshiba Android tablet, whatever Meego device Nokia eventually comes up with, Google's mocked-up Chrome (or Android) tablet, and a host of Linux and Windows 7 tablets from lesser lights. ®
"It's in our DNA"
I hate that phrase. Utterly hate it. You get it in all sorts of PR crap from motorcycles to IT and it is just crap. It's some vacuous attempt to sound all sciency and knowledgeable and it is just total bullshit.
It's in their BUSINESS PLAN to investigate new products/innovations and to try and MAKE MONEY.
Why not just say that?
Right, that's the iPad sorted
I distinctly remember all the fanbois shouting at the top of their lungs as to how the Slate (and other vapourware) will spell the death of iPad, which is, of course, utter sh*te for not having all the USB ports a geek would want.
>Apple will wipe the floor with them all. Not because it's better but purely because they got there first
Having played with an iPad for the first time today, its no great surprise MS and HP are backing off the form factor. It wouldn't surprise me that much if Apple get there alone. Certainly if iPad is the gold standard, the pretenders will be utterly poor.
Manipulating it to do anything useful is difficult, you can't lean it at angle or use it one-handed other than for simple input, click and scrolls etc. Laying flat and leaning over is the only way to edit and that process with text documents is very slow and awkward. With keyboard onscreen you lose too much of the document to do any serious work.
Even with a keyboard (which seems to defeat the point) its awkward without an ad hoc stand to angle the screen, then you're constantly readjusting since keyboard navigation alone is not possible - and then you're also plagued by the grease that accumulates and a less than perfect viewing angle. Most people seemed to default to keyboard on lap, iPad on table and a kind of Gatesian rocking motion or orangutan arm posture. As a laptop replacement folding stands will be order of the day, as will carrying keyboards - ideally one with a trackpad or pointing device - but ultimately the screen is too small and the current software inadequate for actual work.
Its basically a view only device - and then one with a rather limited and annoying experience online, aside from the number of sites which don't display properly and the dodgy wifi, anything requiring input has almost the same slow, iterating-irritating experience of browsing using your phone.
The idea that this form-factor is better or even equivalent to a netbook or laptop is very far from the truth and if its filling an untapped niche it wasn't one I or the died in the wool Mac fans I was with could see. From a UX or ergonomics perspective its actually a pretty bad idea.
because the twin screen idea seems to me to be a good one, an ebook reader that looks like a book? Half the size of others, that when folded protects the screens
Nah, it will never catch on, just because the 'perfect' reading format has been developed over centuries doesn't mean that its a good idea does it?
Another advantage of two iPads clothtaped together bookwise:
Multi-tasking apps! Ta da!