Image via Gizmodo
Now I am sure Microsoft make a lot of prototypes that never make it to market, but the story of the Courier and its demise piqued my interest (The inside story of how Microsoft killed its Courier tablet).
Not only was J Allard's concept interesting, promising the the best of both tablet and stylus computing, it was also a few months before the iPad was launched, giving rise to a whole range of 'what if questions' Microsoft had gone head to head with the iPad day one questions.
Of course there is no guarantee the Courier would have lived up to its promise, bearing in mind that J Allard (the self proclaimed “Eminem of Microsoft”) was also the man who gave us the brown Zune, and after stating that they has “spun, goosed and tweaked the new xbox 360” failed to mention it also hadn't been tested properly, eventually having to extend the warranty by three years to cover the alarming rate at which the hardware failed (estimated to cost over us$1B).
I still find the idea of a dual screen, booklike Courier compelling, the Nintendo DS proves concept works in the market place and the built in cover provided by the second screen seems like a very natural form factor for a tablet to me (based on how many people have added a flip cover to their iPads). Add the combination of both quick touch input and precise smudge free stylus, and I think you could be on a winner, with a meaningful point of differentiation. Something that recent patent spats suggest is missing from the current marketplace.
So in the coming months, as I am bombarded with marketing for the Tablet friendly 'Windows 8', I will spare a thought for the Courier who tried to do things differently, rather than the more nebulous better.
(sorry, I could not resist adding this J.Allard photo before (left) and after (right) the stylists were let lose on him, thanks to Kotaku for the image)