Microsoft Courier Tablet Rumors Get Very Interesting

By Dan Hope Sep 29th, 2009

After the initial wave of wonderment brought on by the reveal of the Microsoft Courier Tablet, we all started to ask some deeper questions about functionality and usefulness for the tablet. Was this really too good to be true? Fortunately, the latest Courier video shows us some more practical applications and navigation tools in the little wonder.

Then to top it all off, another leak detailed some very interesting technical facts about the device. We don’t know which is more exciting. After the disappointment brought on by the Apple Tablet rumors today, the Courier news has lifted our spirits. Now we’re left wondering if Microsoft can really pull off something so … well, likable. Watch the video to see what I’m talking about.

This video does a much better job of showing how you’ll use the various apps (is that what they’ll be called?) together to transfer your media and information around. I was glad to see a demo of how that “pocket” in the crease would hold pics while you shuffle through pages and apps.

The “infinite journal” mentioned in this video seems to indicate the Courier is designed primarily as a way to store and manage all kinds of media and help you integrate that with projects and calendars and the like. You can publish your journal online in three formats: Courier file, PowerPoint or PDF.

Another important clue about the nature of the Courier is what you don’t see in the video: a keyboard, virtual or hardware. The Courier seems to rely completely on your handwriting with the digital pen for all input. That seems like an interesting choice considering that many people are more used to typing than writing these days. Nevertheless, the interface still looks pretty useful with that pen. The only thing that has bothered me in both of these videos is that it shows the digital pen writing impossibly small text on the screen. Is the screen (presumably capacitive) going to be accurate enough that you could really write that small? It would be beyond impressive if it turns out to be true, but as always I remain skeptical.

After the video leaked, good old Mary Jo Foley, that ever-reliable Microsoft oracle, piped up with some more Courier rumors. She says her sources have confirmed the Courier will be running Windows 7 under the touchscreen interface you see in the video, similar to how the Surface table runs Vista in the background. This is exciting news because it implies some compatibility with other Microsoft products, and presumably even the upcoming Windows Marketplace. Are we going to see Courier-specific apps in that store?

Foley also said that Microsoft plans to manufacture this device itself, like it already does for the Zune and the Xbox 360. That means this is much more than a Microsoft interface shoved into an experimental tablet design. Hopefully the hardware and software were designed from the ground up together.

And finally, we can expect to see the Microsoft Courier Tablet arriving on shelves by mid-2010, which is a lot sooner than I expected. Apparently the device is pretty far along in development. That means the Courier will be coming out just in time to challenge Apple’s tablet. This should be a fun fight to watch.

For more tech news, see the blog home page or these related posts:

Microsoft Tablet (Courier) Revealed in Stunning Pics and Video

Palm Pre Going for $100 on Amazon, Still Headed for Verizon Network

Microsoft Tablet and Project Pink Phones Coming?

New $399 eBook Reader from iRex plus Color for 2010

Wii Drops $50

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