Courier, We Hardly Knew Ye

Just what is Microsoft’s Courier project? All we know for sure is that it resulted in a neat concept video, reminiscent of a modern take on Apple’s it-was-a-vision-not-a-product Knowledge Navigator. But I don’t know if anyone outside Microsoft has had a clear handle on whether Courier was an imaginary romantic ideal of a two-screen tablet or something the company was busy building.

And now maybe we never will. Gizmodo, which published the Courier leak in the first place, is reporting that Microsoft has killed Courier. It quotes Microsoft PR honcho Frank Shaw saying that the concept was one of many ideas explored by Microsoft that doesn’t result in a shipping product (at least for now). But it’s still unclear whether Courier ever existed except as a slick piece of animation.

Another question: Did Microsoft let the Courier video out intentionally, or was it a genuine leak? I hope it wasn’t the former: By getting people excited and then failing to result in anything, Courier surely hurts Microsoft’s reputation for creativity (albeit just slightly) rather than helping it…


12 comments

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  1. sfmitch April 29, 2010 at 7:03 pm #

    Ah the memories….

    When the iPad was announced and then again when released, I remember dozens of Apple haters saying that the iPad sucked and they were going to wait until Microsoft delivered the courier. I guess they will be waiting for awhile.

  2. Tom B April 29, 2010 at 7:50 pm #

    I think MSFT correctly realized the Courier required a re-think. Like, maybe, they need to figure out how to do a real Touch interface without Apple suing their pants off.

  3. Hamranhansenhansen April 30, 2010 at 4:38 am #

    Courier was just iPad FUD, but it fell flat because business is more focused around iPhone and now iPad than around Windows anymore. I’ve already seen high-level executives replace company-issued XP PC’s with their own iPads and never look back. Microsoft doesn’t have the echo chamber that used to have. Nobody cares anymore. XP was their last product that mattered.

  4. IcyFog April 30, 2010 at 5:59 am #

    Par for the course for Microsoft.

  5. pond April 30, 2010 at 6:12 am #

    The ‘videos’ we saw were no more than concept animations, with the machine seeming to know a tap meant one thing here, and something else there. The interface, in other words, was not even working in the animation.

    My best guess here is that the top dogs in Microsoft decided that slates etc. were going under the Zune team from now on, with WinPhone as the OS. The design team for the Courier never was connected in the rumors with the Zune guys, and was sort of a big distraction: we all were jazzed about it, wanted to see one, maybe buy one; but as an ‘incubation’ project only, it drew attention away from any slates that the Zune guys might actually get ODMs to put on the market this November.

    The Courier, in other words, wasn’t going to steal much thunder from Apple’s slates, but it might slow adoption of real, selling Microsoft-based slates. That’s why I reckon Microsoft leaked this news now, a couple months before WinPhone 7 is due to be shown in full to partners, for late-2010 devices to ship.

    Later on, the concepts behind Courier might be folded into a WinPhone (8, or 9) device.

    Personally, I think the foldable, dual-screen device could be quite interesting. Apple’s 1987 ‘Navigator’ concept was a single-screen, foldable pad. And with flexible eink screens on the horizon, such things might yet come to be.

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