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Microsoft’s Courier: The Dream That Died…and Why

Jay Greene of Cnet has an excellent story up–the first of a two-parter–on Microsoft’s Courier two-screen tablet, which got everyone excited with an animated demo, but was killed before it ever shipped:

But the device wasn’t intended to be a computer replacement; it was meant to complement PCs. Courier users wouldn’t want or need a feature-rich e-mail application such as Microsoft’s Outlook that lets them switch to conversation views in their inbox or support offline e-mail reading and writing. The key to Courier, Allard’s team argued, was its focus on content creation. Courier was for the creative set, a gadget on which architects might begin to sketch building plans, or writers might begin to draft documents.

The Courier was a wonderful concept product, but I’m not convinced it’s a tragedy that Microsoft axed it, for three reasons:

1) It’s a heck of a lot easier to make a product impressive in a conceptual demo than in real life.

2) Like the Tablet PC, the Courier was heavily invested in the idea that lots of people want to take notes using a stylus and store them in their own handwriting. I’m convinced that very few folks actually want to do that.

3) It behooved Microsoft to identify the one most promising future path for Windows–which turned out to be Windows 8–and then pursue it as aggressively as possible. (And I don’t see why Windows 8 couldn’t be used as the basis of a Courier-like device.)

Still, it would have been fun to see the Courier in that demo in real life. Maybe the most important lesson is this: DON’T LEAK DEMOS OF PRODUCTS YOU AREN’T WILLING TO SELL.

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Three Things to Read That Aren’t Here

I’ve been a busy boy this week. Here are three items I’ve written for other sites that are now live:

Whew. Mind if I take a brief nap?

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Waiting for Thunderbolt

Over at Cnet, I wrote about a technology that I’m excited about, although it’s unclear whether any big players other than Intel and Apple are as enthusiastic as I am:  Thunderbolt.

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Hey, I’m Writing for Cnet!

As part of my ongoing efforts to be everywhere at once–or at least in several cool places–I’ve begun writing for Cnet, a site I’ve known as a reader and sometime competitor since it was founded back in the mid-1990s. I’m going to be contributing a new blog called Challengers, and my topic will be something that’s both quite specific and remarkably broad. The blog is about new things that aim to replace old things–products, services, companies, and technologies. I’ll write about ones that are full of promise and ones that have gotchas, and I’ll do my best to sort out the difference.

Here’s my introductory post over there; look for more stuff soon.

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Reporters' Roundtable: The Lowdown on CES

Last Friday afternoon, I had fun participating in Cnet’s Reporters’ Roundtable show before a live audience on the CES show floor–okay, we were actually right outside the show floor–with host Rafe Needleman and fellow guests Rob Enderle and Jim Louderback. I’m having trouble embedding it, so here’s a link to the video on Cnet.

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