Is anyone else unimpressed with Microsoft’s Courier tablet?

Wed, Sep 30, 2009

Analysis, News

Early yesterday, Gizmodo published what purports to be a more polished mockup video of how Microsoft’s newly rumored Courier notebook/tablet (or whatever you wanna call it) will function.  Reading many of the comments at various tech sites, the masses all seem to be shouting in unison, “I WANT ONE!”  Not one to ever kill a party, I have to pull a 180 and ask if anyone else was as unimpressed with Microsoft’s Courier tablet as I was?  Take a look at the video below.

Now this mockup video is unquestionably cool and interesting, if not downright futuristic, but it leaves me with a lot more questions than answers.

First, the end result of the multi-touch gestures look pretty nice, but actually using them seems a tad confusing, if not downright inconsistent.  Take browsing the web, for example.  The examples shown in the video above show no navigation scheme for traversing through websites.  Specifically, the demo shows a user going to a Nike Air Force 1 website (1:58 into the video), and all of the pertinent photos just happen to show up on the mainpage.  Even putting aside that bit of make believe for a second, the demo then shows a user grabbing a photo of a specific shoe needed for a presentation.  But what if the desired shoe isn’t a stand alone image, what if it’s part of a larger picture?  Can a user employ multi-touch to then select the desired portion of the page?  A similar scenario involving convenient, if not impossible, selecting occurs at the 1:34 mark.

Also, what’s up with the data input, or lack thereof?  Call me crazy, but an inkless pen is annoying, and while it may be sufficient for inputting terse notes and simple URL’s, such as, it’s completely useless for any significant and in-depth type of note taking.  Now that wouldn’t be a problem if there was some form of virtual keyboard, but alas, there doesn’t seem to be one.

Next, the demo notes that users can choose to “publish their journal”, instantly making it downloadable for their friends or for anyone who’s interested.  Now call me cynical if you must, but who exactly will be downloading a journal which, from the video above, will consist solely of web clippings alongside some notes written with an inkless pen?  Can someone come up with a real world example where I would actually be interested in downloading someone else’s journal?

All in all, I find the above video unimpressive because I fail to see any practical use for such a device.  Web surfing looks like its crippled, data selection seems confusing, data entry seems annoying and impractical, and taken together, that makes for a pretty crappy notebook/journal, now matter how cool and futuristic it might appear to be at first glance.  And by the way, Gizmodo correctly points out that there’s basically nothing about viewing content like movies, books, and newspapers – a few things you just might want to do on a portable electronic device.

And one last parting shot – Microsoft’s Courier notebook appears to fold up like a book, in which case, is it that much more advantageous than an actual laptop computer?  Does it bring to the table any added functionality, ease of use, or portability not currently found in products already on the market today?  Sure doesn’t seem like it.

Anyone else out there share those sentiments?  Am I off-base?  A clueless Microsoft basher, perhaps?  Chime in below in the comments and let it all out.

And lest this comes off as a Macboy rant, I share similar sentiments about Apple’s rumored tablet, which based on the current rumors making the rounds, seems like a decent device, but not mindblowing enough to justify the rumored ~$800 pricetag.


, , , ,

9 Comments For This Post

  1. Imski Says:

    It’s looks more like a software demo rather than a hardware one, since it’s aimed at a collaborative working rather than every day tasks.

  2. Yacko Says:

    I wrote in another blog:

    “The UBIQUITOUS computing devices that CONSUMERS will be using from this point forward will be small OS, dare I say Palm-like (as in the old Palm OS 2-5) where the app experience dominates over the OS. CONTENT PRODUCERS will continue to need a real computer but both desktops and laptops will be a shrinking category as computing power is commodified and woven into the fabric of everything most people do. Face it, the golden and silver ages of computing are now over and you’ll just have to live with it. Nice that there may be a non-3G device like the Touch but I don’t see this as a trend for xenophobes. Mobile connectivity is what makes these lower consumer devices thrive and wireless companies are in the driver seat in helping to effect the change.”

    Continuing with that thought:

    A tabletty-kindof thing is inevitable. Continuous connectivity, better batteries, miniaturization and chip power all lead to this path, Whether a dozen years or now, whether a tablet, a soap bar, a folding compact, a page that rolls out, I can’t say, but something will stick. Sitting at a desk or staring at a laptop sitting in a car’s driver seat, not so much.

    So I take a less jaundiced view of the two tablets designs. Neither is the eventual god-device, though folding may be a key factor. If a manufacturer could figure how to have a screen exist over a folding hinge (printable OLED?), that could be it. Imagine a 1/2″ thick 3″x5″ device that could unfold to a 1/8″ thick 6″x10″ 16:9 tablet or game machine, or two 5×6″ book pages or game machine ala Nintendo DS, or two 5×6″ netbook halves, one you “type”, the other the display. I know, we’d need alien technology to pull it off, but I think this is where the whole exercise is headed.

  3. Viswakarma Says:

    See the video on Apple’s Knowledge Navigator —

    Read about it at —

  4. JPO Says:

    I could not play the video – but I can glean what it represents.

    Does it remind you of this?

    “The Knowledge Navigator Sculley envisioned in 1987 would be suited for multimedia applications, utilizing large, high-definition, flat-display screens to support text, full-color, graphics, and computer generated animations. It would also feature high-fidelity sound, speech synthesis, and speech recognition. Sculley emphasized that the Knowledge Navigator would not need to take any specific form; it could be a desktop computer, a handheld, or even built into one’s clothing.”

    As you can see from the videos – the concept looked like a book that folded close on a hinge. Once opened it looked like a conventual desktop (files, etc…). It had an advanced human assistant that understood spoken words. It would be able to help you retrieve information. Note – it also had a touch interface – and though not shown – pen input.

    Congratulations Microsoft you stole this concept to produce “BoB” in 1995:

    and now a concept computer in 2009.

    Man – even when you copy Apple – you do it soooooo poorly and yet so blatantly.

  5. JPO Says:


    I posted the same thing – but it didn’t show up.

    Yeah imagine MS blatantly stealing Apple’s ideas again!

    Remember MS Bob in 1995? HAHAHAHAH

  6. BStur1 Says:

    Kind of neat, but knowing MS, it will never work as smoothly as this animated “wish-it-would-work-like-this” demo. MS has some really smart people working for it, but they seem to have a difficult time of translating their technology into something useful for most people (that would be for non-uber-geeks). The metaphors they use for the interface are okay, but I didn’t see much that would interest me in the way that I would want to use it.

    Their “roller-dex” type of interface is a poor imitation of Apple’s coverflow, you can’t see the whole page, just the top of it, before selecting… The folding screen aspect is kind of cool, at least for not damaging the screen when closed, but I would want it to open into a single screen, or fold back on itself for watching videos in a landscape mode. Having 2 separate screens, or work areas, is useful in some aspects, but may end up being more of a nuisance when you’re not copying and pasting between different applications… Perhaps if you could turn one screen off to save battery power…

  7. central squared Says:

    I don’t know, I really liked the demo. I’m realistic about how well the end product may function, but I’m really into the concept of two screens and a journal/scrapbook thing. But then I’m a designer so it makes sense for what I like to do. I’d also want it to do everything else I do with my macbook and my iphone (unless it was cheap enough to be just a journal device). I do think MS will figure out the other practical details around video, audio, input. But none of those issues are unsolvable. Maybe this whole journal thing could just be an app, and that you can get to the real OS underneath, if need be.

    As a total apple fanboy, this was the first MS thing I’ve ever seen that I really want. You raise good issues about the functionality, but I think you’re being way too hard on it, especially since it’s just a hypothetical demo video.

  8. Blad_Rnr Says:

    Typical MSFT FUD. Apple will be shipping an iTablet or whatever they will call it in a few months, they know it, and MSFT has nothing to challenge them with. So why not make everything think they do have something in the pipeline? Sad. MSFT is so behind the times. The are the Kings of Vaporware.

  9. MacPredictions Says:

    Great post. An Edible Apple classic, in fact.
    You’re absolutely right.

eXTReMe Tracker