Why Microsoft's Courier' Tablet Will Never Exist: Page 2

Posted September 23, 2009

Mike Elgan

Mike Elgan

(Page 2 of 2)

4. The demo is pure CGI .

Do you ever watch movies where the actors are using computers with slick, high-def, large-type user interfaces and think, "which OS is that?" Hollywood routinely ignores existing technology, and just has special effects wizards dream up UIs. When there's some sci-fi vision behind it, you get "Minority Report" type stuff that's feasible, but way off in the future.

That's what the Courier "demo" shows. It's special effects wizardry, not software or hardware design.

The bloggers and the press seem to think that the obviously Photoshopped images making the rounds are actually "photographs" of a Courier device. Come on, people. It's not even a good Photoshopping job.

If you look at this image, you can see that the edge plastic is not shiny enough to reflect the pen at all. But in this image, the pen is fully reflected, as if that same edge is a very shiny surface.

You can also see the left screen reflected in the right screen, even though the left screen is down flat. There is plenty of other evidence proving these images are not photography, but computer-generated fantasy.

Microsoft is the world's largest software company. If Courier really is in the "late prototype" stage, as reports claim, then why didn't the demo show real software or hardware? It's just a pretty sketch.

5. One killer form factor will be clamshell, but not like this.

One killer form factor has already been envisioned, and the Courier "demo" isn't it. The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project mocked up the future of laptops. It's a clamshell usable in four basic configurations, none of them pen-based.

Any future device that develops a two-screen clamshell device where one half of the gadget isn't usable as an on-screen keyboard won't be able to compete with the ones that do.

6. People don't want a dedicated, single-purpose device.

And finally, the world is moving away from single-purpose devices. The stand-alone media player. The dedicated eBook reader. The single-purpose DVD player. These are all going the way of the dodo, to be replaced by cell phones and small mobile devices that do it all. Nobody's going to buy a dedicated "notebook" device that has to be carried, backed-up, charged and managed with the inevitable patches and software updates.

If Microsoft really wants to compete with the coming Apple Tablet, it should be hard at work helping PC OEM partners create both consumer desktop and mobile versions of its Surface computer -- a true multi-touch, potentially multi-purpose device that never needs a pen.

As I've argued several times in this space, Apple is in a position to release a killer tablet, which it could leverage into a takeover of the entire PC industry. In order to compete against the coming bloodbath, Microsoft should and must by now understand that any pen-based device will fail as a mass-market device.

In any event, you'll never own a Microsoft Courier device. It's not real now. It's not going to be real in the future. And even Microsoft does eventually make it real, it will fail in the market and you won't buy one.

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Tags: Microsoft, iPhone, Apple, voice

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