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Microsoft Hardware Technology

Microsoft "Courier" Pictures 230

tekgoblin writes to let us know that Gizmodo has some early shots of the new prototype "Courier" booklet (foldable tablet) on the way from Microsoft. "Courier is a real device, and we've heard that it's in the 'late prototype' stage of development. It's not a tablet, it's a booklet. The dual 7-inch (or so) screens are multitouch, and designed for writing, flicking and drawing with a stylus, in addition to fingers. They're connected by a hinge that holds a single iPhone-esque home button. Statuses, like wireless signal and battery life, are displayed along the rim of one of the screens. On the back cover is a camera, and it might charge through an inductive pad, like the Palm Touchstone charging dock for Pre."
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Microsoft "Courier" Pictures

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  • by bennomatic ( 691188 ) on Friday March 05, 2010 @06:50PM (#31376644) Homepage
    Better? I don't know. Different, for sure. Before the iPad came out, I thought for sure I'd want some sort of dual-screen folding tablet thing, and the courier does look pretty cool for many tasks. But for browsing the web, that big, uninterrupted iPad window is pretty nice.

    Before I invest in either, I really have to think about what I'm going to be doing with it. It's nice to see these sorts of devices really coming into their own. As much as I have an affinity for Apple devices, they're definitely not the only solution in town.
  • by sopssa ( 1498795 ) * <sopssa@email.com> on Friday March 05, 2010 @06:53PM (#31376668) Journal

    But for browsing the web, that big, uninterrupted iPad window is pretty nice.

    The lack of Flash support kind of throw that option out already. And since Courier is Windows CE, I'm pretty sure it will have flash support out of the box, and other browsers like Opera too.

  • Re:Wrong link (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday March 05, 2010 @06:55PM (#31376690) Journal
    I find your optimism that this device won't be locked down interesting...

    Back when rumor first started, it was about a Windows 7 based device. That wouldn't have been "open" in the FSF sense; but it would have implied the continuation of Microsoft's historical commitment to backwards compatibility and 3rd party developers(yes, they can and have crushed the 3rd party developers who got in their way like bugs; but they are otherwise overjoyed to have people writing stuff that depends on their platforms).

    The currently displayed model is Win CE based, and almost definitely the new Windows CE, the one with no backwards compatibility and all managed code, and still uncertain application distribution mechanisms, and integration with the locked-down worlds of zune and xbox. CE 6.5 and earlier were tottering heaps of suck; but they were open in a manner similar to desktop Windows(at least when your mobile carrier hadn't been messing with them).

    Since Microsoft is currently getting hammered in the smartphone and embedded space, there is strong reason to believe that they will(simply of necessity) be more benevolent to developers than Apple is(perhaps a nicer revenue split, less jerking around, cheap dev tools, whatever); but there is no particular reason to suspect that they will be anything other than a (comparatively) benevolent overlord.
  • Re:Wrong link (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WinterSolstice ( 223271 ) on Friday March 05, 2010 @07:09PM (#31376812)

    I'm fine with that - I want one of these so bad, you could probably just charge me now :D

    I am a HUGE moleskine nut, and the one-note style interface is great, because I'm a complete one-note addict. This basically pushes all my buttons, which the iPad did not.

    We'll see how it translates into reality, of course. That's always different :)

  • by WinterSolstice ( 223271 ) on Friday March 05, 2010 @07:11PM (#31376834)

    I don't think I'd buy this as a web browser. I think I'd buy this to replace my moleskine - which right now is a big mess of drawings, notes, and clips of things taped into place.
    It holds everything from code samples to to UI mockups - and I write much faster with a pen (like Graffiti 1/2 or paper) than on a slow on screen keyboard.

  • by BobMcD ( 601576 ) on Friday March 05, 2010 @07:31PM (#31376986)

    Wow, where to begin... This looks good:

    It reminds me of all the VRML hype from years back. People were predicting that in the future, we wouldn't type URLs into a Web browser. We'd fire up our Avatars and fly to places on the Web in 3-D graphics. We would walk through virtual libraries, pulling electronic books off 3-D shelves. We'd ride dragons to meeting rooms where we'd chat with other avatars in real time. And all I could think was, "WTF? So we've just invented the Internet, this miraculous thing that puts the world of information right at your fingertips, no matter where you are, so that all you have to do is type a couple things and the information instantly appears on your screen... and you want to impose a 3-D spatial paradigm on it? Instead of calling up information out of thin air, you want to have to hike down the virtual block to get it? You call that progress?"

    I wonder if you're familiar with Second Life [secondlife.com]?

    And yes, for many, it is considered progress. Or at least it was. I'm not sure how many big corps are still onboard, but there were buzzings of private servers for employee training and the like. Anyway it turns out that while it hasn't applied to the web as a whole, people really did cotton to that idea. Lots of people. Even some important ones.

    Same thing with this tablet idea. People are too stupid to use computers, apparently, so you want to use all the power of a computer to enable them to do things like they would if all they had was a stack of paper and a Bic -- because that's what they're supposedly comfortable with.

    Taking your finger and pointing it is about as basic as it gets. Using a pen is just an extension of that. Paper made it more portable than cave walls. People aren't all that keen on using keyboards everywhere they go because they're simply not natural. How many of those full-size, fold-able keyboards sold as accessories to cell phones really see any daily use?

    I think the device looks like an innovative approach to 'infinite paper', which is basically what the videos bill it out to be. It looks like a huge step beyond what tablets presently mean, and seems to offer it in a better form factor.

    Meanwhile your desktop will be right where you last left it, with the keyboard still attached.

    I guess I'm not quite sure what you're rambling about, but I'm pretty certain the words you are searching for involve 'kids' and 'off' and 'lawn'.

  • by jonadab ( 583620 ) on Friday March 05, 2010 @07:45PM (#31377070) Homepage Journal
    > > But for browsing the web, that big, uninterrupted iPad window is pretty nice.
    > The lack of Flash support kind of throw that option out already.


    I'm a lot less hostile to Flash these days than I used to be, due to the advent of FlashBlock, which allows the Flash plugin to be installed without making the web completely unusable from that computer.

    But I still haven't figured out why anyone *cares* about it. My primary browser doesn't have the plugin installed, simply because I haven't bothered. I had it installed in Firefox 2.x, but when I upgraded to 3.0 I would have had to install it again or make a symlink, and I never bothered.

    I do have a couple of other browsers sitting around that have Flash support (Konqueror, for instance), but I almost never use them for that. On the extremely rare occasion that I actually want to watch a YouTube video, I usually download it and watch it in Totem or somesuch. (There's an add-on for Firefox that lets you download even the ones that don't otherwise have a download link.) I experimented briefly with smart.fm, but I found that it didn't really meet my needs, and I ended up using a real SRS instead.
  • by edumacator ( 910819 ) on Friday March 05, 2010 @08:38PM (#31377388)

    I'd represent a small vertical market, but as a teacher, the idea of having something like this that is portable and with the capacity to wirelessly connect to a projector makes me salivate...

    I already use a wireless slate connected to a desktop, but my sometimes less-than-legible handwriting and drawings always are more entertaining than the lesson itself. Still, I'm able to sit next to little Billy at the back of the room while taking notes on the "board." That kind of freedom is wonderful.

    Connect the ability to take notes like that to the board with the more interactive activities like surfing the web and moving those images and things around...I'd be in heaven.

    Now if only they would actually make it...

  • by SmokeSerpent ( 106200 ) <benjamin@NoSPAM.psnw.com> on Friday March 05, 2010 @11:17PM (#31378320) Homepage

    This is a special-purpose device. It's competing with paper notebooks and binders, or at best, with a laptop + pen input for specific applications.

    This isn't for watching movies, playing games, or *really* browsing the web. It's for taking notes, gathering reference materials, and collaborating.

    The question isn't whether it can be a better tablet than the iPad and other coming products, but whether Microsoft can convince people in the design business that this will be quicker/more convenient enough for them than their current way of doing things to justify investing in the device.

    For the typical consumer, this will be too expensive and not convergent enough to be worth buying, the question is whether it is useful and divergent enough for the target market.

  • by davide marney ( 231845 ) * <davide,marney&netmedia,org> on Saturday March 06, 2010 @01:04AM (#31378880) Journal

    One thing that Courier nails is the concept of using both fingers and pen. Go ahead, try it. There are two basic pen positions: a "writing" position that uses all five fingers, and a "resting" position where the pen is rotated 90 degrees, and held in place by a single finger, leaving the other fingers free. The writing position is vertical, resting on the edge of the hand. The resting position is horizontal, palm down.

    The Courier UI mockup uses both of these hand configurations and orientations. Flat, horizontal motions such as flipping a page or image dragging are done in the resting position. Vertical motions such as drawing and writing are done in writing position. Switching between the two is very fast and natural-feeling.

    Having a pen dispenses with the need for a QUERTY keyboard, but block-printing is not the solution either. For one thing, it's too slow: the average printing speed is about 15wpm. A better solution might be a stylus-based keyboard. Several years ago, IBM invented a shorthand named Shark [ibm.com] (commercialized as ShapeWriter [shapewriter.com], I believe) that was extremely effective. After just a few minutes of practice with it, I was able to achieve 40wpm.

Who goeth a-borrowing goeth a-sorrowing. -- Thomas Tusser