A recently uncovered patent application submitted in January 2009 by Microsoft is threatening to open up the old wounds we sustained when the Courier was canceled. The patent is for an animated page turn effect not unlike that seen in the iPad's iBooks and Kindle apps.
Part of the application reads, "The virtual page turn actively follows the page-turning gesture. The virtual page turn curls a lifted portion of the page to progressively reveal a back side of the page while progressively revealing a front side of a subsequent page." Sounds familiar, right? Neither Microsoft nor Apple can claim to have invented this, and it's unclear if this patent would have been granted.
If the application were granted, Microsoft would seemingly have no place to implement it. Add it to Windows 7 tablets? Maybe. More likely, this will just stand as another reminder of what the Courier could have been.
Microsoft is said to have scrapped its promising Courier project, which first met the public eye in September last year, when beleaguered tech blog Gizmodo broke the news of its existence. The tablet concept prompted many aspiring tablet owners, especially those looking past the iPad, to pin their hopes on its launch.
There was never any official word regarding the possibility of a commercial launch, however, a recently published New York Times report did have the dual-screen tablet shipping by the beginning of next year. But it has now emerged that Microsoft has chosen to bid adieu to the Courier at the end of the incubation period itself.
The early success of Apple's iPad might have Microsoft rethinking its strategy. According to a report in the New York Times, Microsoft is having a tough time identifying a potential market for a dual-screen device that folds like a book. What's more, engineers have to figure out a way to maintain battery life, which is no easy task given the double-screen design.
"At first the idea was to market the Courier for designers and architects, but lately the company is thinking of a broader market of consumers and so would include e-books, magazines and other media content on the device," NYT writes.
The latest word from Microsoft engineers appears to be that the Courier won't come out until early 2011. If that's true, Microsoft would both be giving other tablet makers a potential head start, and would miss the all-important holiday rush.
Tablet PCs might just be a signal of a shift in the direction of computing. Simple, portable, functionally specific devices intended to meet particular computing needs efficiently--not dumbed down PCs, but something unique in its own right. Take for example the just released info on Microsoft’s Courier tablet/eBook. Like other recent tablet announcements, the Courier defines a new ethos for personal computing.
Engadget’s offering some new pictures of the Courier, along with two high-def videos that show off its look and functionality. The Courier, Engadget tells us, will have a clamshell form, which will measure slightly bigger than 5 x 7 when closed. The device is built around the Tegra 2 and is expected to run on the same OS as the Zune HD, Pink, and Windows Mobile 7 series devices, rather than a constricted version of Windows 7. The device will be pen-based, but also allow for touch operation. It appears to have tightly integrated applications that mimic a journal. And there just might be some web/cloud computing tie-ins as well.
Microsoft’s approach with Courier seems similar to that of Apple with the iPad--a multi-functional, but limited device that stresses mobility over power. This suggests that the uni-functional eBooks of today might have a relatively short shelf live. (Amazon’s rumored color Kindle upgrade seems consistent with this possibility.)
The Courier is expected to make a formal appearance in “Q3/Q4”. Pricing is unknown as this time.
Just when you thought that you had seen the last of the iPhone killers another one popped out from nowhere. But the threshold of banality has been reached and, thankfully, people's tolerance of prospective iPhone killers is now close to nil – the Nexus One being the only exception. The stage is now all set for a breathtaking tablet or two to take the limelight away from all other gadgets.
According to the venerable New York Times, Microsoft will try and conquer the vacant stage with a tablet of its own at the ongoing Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, effectively beating Apple to the tablet-announcing punch.
If even the concept for a product exists, a modder out there will try and build it. That’s what’s happened with the vaporware Microsoft Courier. A wily user has managed to ditch the keyboard and attach a USB touchscreen display to his Dell Mini 9. The USB powered display is used for typing and writing on, and the original Dell Mini display is used for reading.
Windows 7 makes the whole affair moderately useful with its integrated handwriting and voice recognition. The mod is still unpolished and incomplete though. There’s not really a hinge attaching the two halves at this time. But still, you don’t see Microsoft showing an actual Courier around.
A series of images have shown up online that purport to explain how the mysterious Microsoft Courier interface works. They consist of some professional looking diagrams and illustrations of the Courier device from the previously leaked videos.
The docs indicate that the unit will have multitouch gestures for actions like opening apps, and zooming. There’s a pen as well. It has two buttons, an eraser, and a twist mechanism to access different functions. Courier’s “home screen” is called the Smart Agenda. It displays email, weather, to-do lists, and any active items in the journal. Almost any content the device can access can be “clipped”, and stored in the journal.
There are also numerous references to “the cloud” in these images. They say that any part of your journal can be shared with the cloud. People can instantly comment on these portions via a web browser. Speaking of browsers, the courier has one, and it actually looks nice. Pages are organized like a stack of note cards to flip through.
While this may be vaporware, it is very attractive vaporware. Let’s hope it actually exists.
Another video of Microsoft’s Courier booklet made its way onto Gizmodo today, a week after the same site had leaked the first video of this exciting multi-touch device. The second video is meatier and more informative compared to the first one. Apparently, the device is centered on the “infinite journal,” which can be uploaded on the internet and freely shared with friends.
A journal, once it is published online, can be downloaded in three different formats - a Courier file, Powerpoint or PDF, making it possible for even non-Courier users to access it. The “infinite journal” can seamlessly shift between being an insipid digital notepad to an artist’s canvas. It also features a library that catalogues subscriptions, notebooks and apps.
Two videos of the device have now been leaked but there is not even a single frame grab of Courier’s media capabilities. ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley claims to have learnt from one of her sources that the Courier is based on Windows 7, although it is not possible to install Windows 7 apps. This is because Microsoft only wants it to run applications that are “tailored to a tablet form factor.”
For some time now Apple has stolen all the thunder when it comes to the idea of a tablet – but it appears that we’ve been looking in the wrong place. In a very real announcement, Microsoft has revealed their Courier tablet concept, and it looks absolutely divine.
The Courier (which can be seen in conceptual video form here), is reportedly in the late stages of development and despite its appearance, is a tablet, not a booklet. The 7-inch screens will support multitouch, writing, flicking, and drawing with a stylus or your fingers. A hinge that houses an iPhone-style home button, which you can use to bookmark pages, connects them both. The back cover will sport a three megpixel camera, and the lights that display status (wireless signal, battery life, etc.) will line up on the bottom.
No word yet on pricing or availability, but there’ll be plenty of news to come in the next few days.