Tablet PCs did not take off when Microsoft announced them in 2001. They were bulky, heavy and the Windows operating system did not translate well for pen-based input. Now, Microsoft is back with a concept device called “Courier” – a notebook-styled “booklet” PC that could give Apple a reason to worry.
Microsoft’s Courier Tablet: Paper 2.0
The Courier is a book-like tablet computer with two multi-touch displays. The left screen is meant for navigating the web, keeping track of your calendar and manipulating photos, among other tasks. The right screen will be mostly used for managing what Microsoft refers to as the “Infinite Journal” – the place where the user’s notes and important multimedia will be stored. Users will employ a combination of multi-touch gestures (similar to the iPhone/iPod Touch) and a stylus pen to input and manipulate data. manila delivery
The main focus of this device is to take notes, but not with an on-screen or external keyboard. The user is meant to utilize the stylus to physically write on the journal as if it was paper. According to leaked videos and documentation, users will be able to highlight, annotate, cut and paste information from websites and e-books seamlessly from screen to screen.
For example, a fashion designer can bring up a company’s website in the built-in browser and pick a dress design they like from the site’s photo gallery. With that photo displayed on the left screen, the user can then interact with it in a variety of ways, including circling the photo and writing a note next to it to remember it for later, or circling the photo and flicking it over to the Infinite Journal.
These actions look very intuitive in the video and the interface feels like it was developed in Cupertino – not Redmond. Animations are clean and smooth, such as scrolling through the browser history like a deck of cards or flipping through a “stack” of images. The Courier’s killer app, however, is the ability to mark up any web page, picture, or video with notes and drawings. Should digital textbooks take over in colleges across the country, students will have a much easier time annotating their reading assignments on a Courier instead of a printed tome.
The Courier’s Other Perks
The Courier also features a built-in camera, Wi-Fi connectivity and an iPhone-like home button on the front of the hinge to navigate to the latest journal entry.
Users can drag their contacts from the Courier’s address book into a journal, thus sharing that journal with those contacts over Wi-Fi. People with access to that journal can add or edit any of its contents, making collaboration on a project easy and efficient.
If users would rather forgo the stylus in favor of their fingers, the Courier will support multi-touch gestures, like pinching to zoom and flicking side to side to navigate web and Journal pages.
Microsoft doesn’t seem to just be resurrecting the tablet market with the Courier – it’s going after another market entirely: e-book readers. The Courier’s shape, size and vertical orientation make the device perfect for reading on the go. There is no word as to whether a service will exist for downloading books, like Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook have in place.
Why Microsoft’s Courier Should Make Apple Nervous
Apple is known for making hip, revolutionary devices. The iMac, iPod and iPhone all changed their respective markets. Microsoft, on the other hand, is often shrugged off as a business-oriented company focused on cheap-but-functional PCs.
Blogs and news sites around the web have slowly leaked out any rumors available about Apple’s upcoming tablet computer. Some say it’s for reading e-Books, some say it’s for watching videos downloaded from iTunes. The one thing most people can agree on, however, is that no one knows exactly who represents the target market for the device. There doesn’t appear to be an intended purpose for Apple’s tablet…just yet.
Microsoft’s Courier, however, does have a purpose. It has a market. Microsoft is targeting the Courier towards students, professionals, designers and anyone who carries a notebook, but wants it to do more.
As of right now, the Courier is in the “late prototype” stage, meaning its design and features could change at any time. However, Microsoft would be foolish to stray too far away from the paper-replacer depicted in its teaser videos. Laptops are portable, but bulky and netbooks are light, but severely underpowered. If the demo videos are any indication, Microsoft’s Courier could be the missing link.