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Microsoft Portables Technology

Early Details On Courier, Microsoft's Take On a Tablet 175

rbanffy points out an article on Gizmodo about Courier, a tablet (or more accurately, a booklet) in development at Microsoft. "The dual 7-inch (or so) screens are multitouch, and designed for writing, flicking and drawing with a stylus, in addition to fingers. They're connected by a hinge that holds a single iPhone-esque home button. Statuses, like wireless signal and battery life, are displayed along the rim of one of the screens. On the back cover is a camera, and it might charge through an inductive pad, like the Palm Touchstone charging dock for Pre." A concept video shows off the ability to use the two different screens for separate purposes, like browsing the web or a photo album on the left and using the right as a notepad or workspace.
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Early Details On Courier, Microsoft's Take On a Tablet

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  • by sopssa ( 1498795 ) * <sopssa@email.com> on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @10:21AM (#29515137) Journal

    Courier actually does look really nice. I have been thinking of buying a eBook reader, but the fact this has dual screen with multitouch makes me want to wait for this one, and that it can act as a tablet too. It makes it a lot more book like which you can see from the pictures too.

    Besides eBook reader this would be a nice device to browse the web or do some work in the bed or sofa.

    And I'm suprised to say this but compared to Apple's tablet this will probably be more open (in the not-restricted-to-apples-store way) and have a Windows platform. I hope they reveal more details soon.

    • by manekineko2 ( 1052430 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @10:30AM (#29515277)

      To me this thing is in a completely different category from eBook readers.

      What you're really paying for on eBook readers and the real benefit is an e-ink display, which this most certainly does not have unless Microsoft has made some technological breakthroughs they're not sharing. If you get an eBook reader that uses regular LCDs you're right back in the realm of trying to read a book that's printed on top of a lightbulb that's switched on, with the accompanying battery requirements of powering said lightbulb.

      • by sopssa ( 1498795 ) *

        I guess it depends on how you use it too. Myself I probably have little use to carry it around, so I would mostly be using it in a bed to read something or surf the web and so on. This probably dont have the same battery requirements as normal laptops, so the battery life would still be many hours.

        The added advantage is that its not just eBook reader, but you can do a lot more with it. Personally I dont like using laptop in bed, its too clumsy or you cant get yourself in good position. If this is more book

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by wvmarle ( 1070040 )

        on eBook readers [...] the real benefit is an e-ink display, which this most certainly does not have unless Microsoft has made some technological breakthroughs they're not sharing.

        I'd say they for sure do not have such a tech. MS doesn't develop hardware, they are primarily a software company that is also putting together hardware devices. They do not develop hardware tech really - they use off-the-shelf (a PC with nice case = XBOX) tech and use that to build their stuff. That is not meant negatively; Apple is doing much of the same, just a bit more successful. It's like playing with legos, the creativity is in how you put the parts together.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Abreu ( 173023 )

        Devices with LCD screens are still way cheaper and easier to read on than those darkgrey-on-lightgrey, expensive and slow e-ink displays.

        (unless of course, some breakthrough improvements have appeared and no one told me)

      • by hey ( 83763 )

        It would be cool if one side was e-ink and the other was regular (LCD?).

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by schnikies79 ( 788746 )

      It still has a backlit screen. I have yet to be able to read any ebooks on lcd or any other backlist screen. I've tried on my desktop, my netbook and my iphone.

      At this point, it's e-ink for ebooks or nothing.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @10:47AM (#29515481)
        It still has a backlit screen. I have yet to be able to read any ebooks on lcd or any other backlist screen. I've tried on my desktop, my netbook and my iphone.

        At this point, it's e-ink for ebooks or nothing.

        Yep. Only e-ink for me for future readers. What's funny is that the only people that I know who have bad things to say about ebook readers are those who don't actually read. For some reason, they seem the most opposed to this change, yet they're the ones who won't be affected by it in any way (sort of like the hyper-religious and gay marriage). Everyone else seems at least interested, and when they see how you can use an e-ink device in full sunlight, they're pretty much convinced that's the way to go. That's not to say that other devices won't work for casual reading (iThings, netbooks, this thing, etc), but as far as truly dedicated reading devices go, e-ink has a HUGE advantage.
        • the only people that I know who have bad things to say about ebook readers are those who don't actually read.

          Then allow me to shake your world.
          I'm a reader. I've read around twenty-five books so far this year (and some of them should probably count double, since they were Robert Jordan (embarrassed cough)).
          I am not a fan of ebooks, principally because paper is such a wonderful interface. You can make notes on it. You can skim through it easily. It has a great feeling of weight in the hand. You can put stickies on it. You can find an interesting passage by remembering where on the page it was located, what th

          • I think that for text books and other non-enjoyment reading stuff these things have potential. I'd love to have my text books and references guides packed onto a futuristic ebook. Hell the whole hitchhikers guide thing is just too cool, I'd love some sort of futuristic encyclopedia I can throw in my bag and get whatever I need from.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Abreu ( 173023 )

          The ability to use an e-ink device in the sunlight does not change the fact that when it comes to reading indoors (or in public transportation, etc) a regular LCD usually blows it out of the water when it comes to readability, price and speed.

          IMHO, the most critical aspect of E-ink that needs to be improved is the on-screen contrast (the current "grey-on-grey" screens are nearly unusable on regular indoors light)

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Bat Country ( 829565 )

        If you turn the brightness all the way down then read on a tight format black on white (like Microsoft Reader's default format) with a good print font (not a screen font) in a room that's comfortably lit, it's really no different from reading from a printed page. The light levels are identical and the contrast is just as good as reading a low quality paperback. I read on my laptop that way and have for years. It's quite comfortable, as soon as you figure out how to hold the laptop for maximum relaxation (

        • Turning down the brightness, adjusting contrast, selecting a good font, and ensuring the right level of ambient light, those are all good things to do regardless. They do mitigate the problems of LCD screens, but "no different [than] reading from a printed page"? Hardly.

          I think for you, things may be fine, or you may simply not notice enough to care. CRT users (even those with monitors set to a 60Hz refresh rate) said similar things. That Kindle users unanimously rave about the readability of their e-I

    • by Wingsy ( 761354 )
      "... but the fact this has dual screen with multitouch makes me want to wait for this one"

      Fact? What fact? This is a cartoon! Regardless, it certainly had the intended effect... "want to wait for this one".
    • I doubt an Apple Tablet wouldn't be anything *but* a standard computing device running on standard OSX. I just wouldn't want to play games on it.

  • by Toe, The ( 545098 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @10:25AM (#29515195)

    Does it come in brown?

  • There is a pretty good Anime named "Ergo Proxy". The main character Re-l Mayer, has a folding e-folio like device with translucent screens which I have coveted since I saw the series.

    Oh... and the sound track is pretty good too.

    • Not to mention it would be nice to have a Entourage to take care of mundane tasks and access global information networks. Of course, I prefer not to have the Entourage go crazy with a virus...

      BTW, one of my favorite Animes
  • Knowledge Navigator (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Toe, The ( 545098 )

    Ya know... it looks a little bit like the Apple Knowledge Navigator [digibarn.com], a 1987 concept [wikipedia.org].

    • It does? They both have screens, yes. I don't see too much similar other than that..
      • The Knowledge Navigator concept had a screen that folded out like a book, as does Courier. It also supported multi-touch, as does Courier. It also did a lot of things that Courier can't do (but of course it didn't really do any of them since it was only a concept). So I think the GP is correct about Courier looking a bit like the Knowledge Navigator.

  • But then it's Microsoft and it is not a release version so likely all the cool features will be removed by then.

    Ok, joking aside: what OS will they be running? Is Win7 capable of such neat touch-screen tricks already? Is such a tablet (which looks a bit like a double PDA to me) powerful enough for such a big system? I don't think I have ever seen or heard about a system that can do the things they demoed (well it was a complete mock-up: the user's hand was even drawn so it was for sure not a video of a rea

    • The video provided by Gizmodo shows a revolutionary multitouch UI. It might be more related to the system Microsoft developed for its Surface computers, rather than Windows 7's built in multitouch. Whether the mockup described in the video represents an entirely new Microsoft OS or an application running on top of an existing OS will be an interesting clue as to Microsoft's strategy for the tablet market.
  • by Bicx ( 1042846 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @10:47AM (#29515479)
    one of the screens could be replaced by a full Querty keyboard for rapid word processing. You could then hold it in your lap while typing with the speed of both hands.
  • About Time... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ReverendDC ( 1547301 )
    Two screens double the size of an iPhones. Very nice. The pocket in the middle...very nice. the folding (a 15" combined screen area in a package the size of a small netbook)...very, very nice. If this thing even thinks about supporting Office, Apple may have a tough time competing with this thing if it is all as listed here. Of course, as with any company, things change before release (anyone remember WinFS?).
  • by p0 ( 740290 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @10:51AM (#29515537)
    Remember that? Wasn't it supposed to do this shit 3 years ago? Here we go again.
    • Not really. Origami was basically a way of reviving Windows XP Tablet Edition in something resembling a Game Gear, where you have a two-hand grip and do most of your control through the thumbs. This seems to be more of a bespoke OS, in a proper tablet form factor.

  • ... and decided they had to look just like a book!

    I don't see a significant advantage to this two-page style of design, but do see significant disadvantages - the big one being the awkwardness of holding it. It's only going to be comfortable to use if you're basically in those positions where a paper book is easy to hold, which pretty much means sitting down. There's probably a good reason the photo and demo video don't show an actual person using the device.

    Books weren't designed with "mobility while using

    • Well, I'm guessing it flips around and you can hold it like a laptop - maybe use the lower screen for typing (which would probably be miserable). What would be really cool is if the second screen could go all the way around like a spiral notbook, so it holds the form factor of a single screen device.

      And as for upper management, I think the thinking goes more like: Apple has a single screen tablet device? Fuck it, we're doing two screens! [theonion.com]

    • I see a number of significant advantages to a two-page style design:
      -Twice the screen size in the same form factor. That's a pretty big deal.
      -Built in screen protection
      -Last I checked, paperbacks can be held one handed if they're not too thick such that the binding closes itself.
      -Familiar and attractive design.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by bdsesq ( 515351 )

        I see a number of significant advantages to a two-page style design:

        Having a hinge with all the necessary wires going thru it is not an advantage. Laptops have similar designs but this looks like it will be flexed a lot more often than people move their laptop screens.

    • by Abreu ( 173023 )

      Actually, it should fold over like a book and have pleasant cornflower blue covers with "Don't Panic" written in friendly yellow letters...

  • by swanzilla ( 1458281 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @10:54AM (#29515577) Homepage
    ...dual blue screens of death
  • Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by miffo.swe ( 547642 )

    Reporting on Microsoft vapourware is just plain silly considering how little of their announcements that reach the market. Considering how much specs that gets tossed out the window to get it out after delays upon delays makes it even more pointless.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      It's not vaporware.
      There are actual working prototypes.

      WIll it reach the market? I don't know. It might be crap to use, it might not have a market, but it's not vaporware.

      The more you attack someoneusing incorrect information, the less people take you seriously.

  • A screen that folds up would simultaneously solve two problems: First, be smaller for easy carrying. Second, be large enough for viewing whole documents and for older people.
    I've seen "scoll" computers depicted in scifi: screens that roll up into a compact cylinder. But they sound further in the future.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I have to agree with you on this one. The fact that it can look like a book sitting in your hands, with what looks like nice leather bindings, adds to a certain aesthetic snoot that usually only applies to Apples products.
  • I like it... but (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rAiNsT0rm ( 877553 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @11:11AM (#29515765) Homepage

    I've always been a huge proponent of a dual screen laptop. A ton of people cry about the lack of a tactile keyboard and it always ends there. Haptic feedback is getting better and I can see that as the future but for now something like this is needed. A single screen tablet just isn't useful or natural and they never truly caught on. This type of device is. I think it should actually be oriented as a regular laptop with a simple sensor to know the orientation change to portrait mode and function as shown in the demo videos. Just having the option is better than making it a portrait only device for no real reason.

    My other concern is that Microsoft is not good at UI design. Occasionally they have flashes of brilliance but on the whole they fail miserably in this regard. Apple is not always better, so this isn't some fanboy argument. What they should do it farm out the UI to a design firm, something along the lines of Art Lebedev. Let it be truly revolutionary instead of being handcuffed by old ideas and methodologies.

    Foe me, you give me those two things and make it a bit thinner but strong and I'm totally sold. I don't think it needs to be netbook cheap even, a fair range of $1200-$1600 and I think it is a winner. Teachers, students, professionals, ebooks, etc. in one device is a disruptive technology.

    • It's not just "haptic feedback" which befuddles touch keyboards. You also have the issue of keeping your hands oriented on the keyboard, which is difficult when you can't feel it. Then there's ergonomics. To operate a touch keypad, you hold your fingers off the keypad when you're not actively pressing the buttons. That's the reverse of a mechanical keypad, and it's going to be exhausting. These are fixable (Nokia's tactile screen concept for the former, the Blackberry click-screen idea for the latter) but a

      • umm, that is exactly what haptic feedback is. It would allow the screen to have feel to it. Ex: raised bumps for each key that have a click to them when depressed (sort of like the BB Storm screen), or a raised ridge on the "F" and "J" just like a real keyboard for orientation, or tons of other unique and new methods.

        Ergonomics of it is no different than current laptop keyboards or Apple keyboards with very thin keys. Those tolerances are within specs of what a feedback enabled screen could do.

        The big advan

    • Who is good at UI design, in your opinion, then? I certainly don't think Gnome or KDE are particularly good at it (or, honestly, most open source ... and closed source ... applications). I don't like Apple's, but I guess it works. I don't like the iPhone, but mainly because of the lack of multitasking. Personally, I have found Win 7 to be decent (better than Vista). I like Gnome better than KDE. I'd say Gnome and Win 7's are my favorites... and while agree MS isn't particularly good at it, I haven't r
    • What they should do it farm out the UI to a design firm, something along the lines of Art Lebedev.

      I agree, my main problem with Microsoft stuff is that it is far too cheap.

      • A design firm, even the likes of Art Lebedev Studios is a drop in the bucket compared to the R&D and design work that goes into something like this. Just because Art Lebedev has created expensive items directly (which was never meant for production and housed over a hundred OLED screens) doesn't mean that everything they do is expensive to that level. Lots of major companies do this kind of design work outside of their normal product lines.

        • I freely admit my ignorance, I was judging the studio in question solely by the product you allude to, since I am entirely ignorant of their other work. Could you point me to some of their designs that have been realised in an affordable form?
          • The best place to start is their website: http://www.artlebedev.com/ [artlebedev.com] you will see that they do indeed do design work for UI's like the GPS navigation system and T&C Amplifier on the front page. They have a store link which has a bunch of their work.

            • Thanks for the link. I see that the GPS system you mentioned is just a concept design. The pre-amplifier is indeed commercially available, at just under $10,000.

              However, I did note that the Art Lebedev site has a variety of fridge magnets and a Tetris-themed ice cube tray for sale at fairly reasonable prices. :)

              • Heh, yes, but their stuff is expensive to begin with no matter who designed the interface. The thing I was getting at is that Art Lebedev is just one such company, I actually think there are better firms out there for a thing like this. Even better let a few young and hungry firms work on it and see what they can come up with.

                The big picture is to get away from coders and techies creating interfaces, they aren't good at it. We like to think we have skillz in this area but the reality is just as much dedicat

  • you think how DRM crippled this will be. IF it becomes a must have item, it is a chance to get DRM firmly entrenched via the back door. Especially when you consider the studios that MS has done deals with, and their love of Digital restrictions. It will be the kick start for DRM. Approved content only, from the MS Store, no loading your "downloaded" ebooks on this baby. Its the perfect platform for strategy shift without too much whinging from us freedom lovers.

    It breaks the concept of MS = PC Only. It allo

    • by Abreu ( 173023 )

      Don't worry... if this becomes even mildly popular, we will soon be seeing dozens of cheap knockoffs made in China without the DRM

      Remember the first wave of Chinese multi-region DVD players?

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      MS has moved away from DRM and control. They still do it, but it's trended away from it. Which makes sense since it gets them nothing and impacts there operation.

  • is there really a consumer level need for a dual screen tablet? On top of that, if you look at the costs of netbooks, the screen and touchscreen are a huge expense when you look at netbooks in the sub $300 range. I really think what we have here is Microsoft marketing attempting to pump up their falling brand name by making a device they can show "pushing" windows from one screen to the next screen. In the real world, it's just not going to cut it except for those Microsoft lemmings who buy everything wi
    • I'd love to have a 20" diagonal screen (17x11x1.5) that fits in a backpack (9x11x3).
      • by Locutus ( 9039 )
        but you would not want the battery needed to power it and the GPU needed to drive it.

      • by treeves ( 963993 )
        Well, if you have the technology/magic you'd need to make a 17x11 object fit into a 9x11 container, you should not want for anything - you should be very rich!
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Actually it's the vendors that are pushing for a price and size increase in netbooks, not MS.

      • by Locutus ( 9039 )
        so that's why the prices jumped and the hardware jumped when they started loading Microsoft Windows XP on them. I had no idea.

  • by Comboman ( 895500 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @12:18PM (#29516879)
    Am I the only one who expected the logo for a Microsoft product called Courier to use a different font?
  • can it switch sides for lefties?

    I have doubts that the commands used for tiny device with be desirable for larger devices since that aren't as economical to use.

    Also, does Apple own the Patent on using two touch point to adjust a screen?

    I'd like to play with one for a bit.

    If it had a phone and room for mp3s, this could become very ubiquitous in the business enviroment. replacing Franklin.

  • ...can it also receive, store and send email [courier-mta.org]? No? Didn't think so...

    (Just moving my courier setup from one machine to another, incidentally...)

    np: Yagya - Their Blood Is Black And Yellow (Will I Dream During The Process?)

  • I thought the tabletPC was Microsoft's take on the tablet.

  • Did I miss the memo where all stories on Slashdot are tagged as "story" ?

    Perhaps we should also tag them as "slashdot" too. Or "content".

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