Microsoft Courier Starts The Tablet Race

On Tuesday, Gizmodo published an exclusive report on an upcoming tablet project from Microsoft.  Currently referred to as Microsoft Courier, the tablet brings an exciting new functionality to mobile computer users.  Gizmodo makes Courier out to be a stylish, cutting-edge double screen device that functions like the most interactive day planner in the world.

The report didn’t say when, or even if, Courier would be released to stores.  Microsoft is developing several tablet projects, and Courier is the one that, at the time of this writing, we know most about.  It may be, with a rumored Apple tablet on the horizon and a soon-to-be-released E-reader/netbook from Asus, that the rumors of Courier will breathe life into the tablet race.

Meet Microsoft Courier

Gizmodo’s report was not specific as to the precise functions and capabilities of Courier, but leads us to believe that Courier will redefine the personal business device.  We know it resembles a book with two seven-inch screens that will very likely be color.  Courier will offer Wi-Fi, and come equipped with a camera.  It will come with a stylus for drawing and handwriting, as well as utilizing multitouch technology such as flicking and pinching.  It’s still unclear how Courier will handle email, or whether it will offer video conferencing or a microphone.

Courier looks as though it will rise above the devices currently available from Research in Motion and Palm, in its ability to take the data-manipulation and interactivity of a computer, and merge it with the best elements of a paper planner.  Those elements include portability, large writing spaces, and two visible pages at once.

Where is Apple’s Tablet?

Gizmodo is also quick to observe that Courier is a completely different tablet than what the Apple tablet is expected to be.  What is expected from Apple is a re-conceptualized iPod Touch.  It will likely run the iPod OS, or some other Mac OS X, and include the multitouch display and 3G, as well as a microphone, Wi-Fi, and an iSight camera.

All of that, however, is unfounded rumor, in the absence of any hints or leaks from the Apple corporation.  No one knows what is cooking in Apple’s development labs, or if anything is even being developed.  All we have seen are a few blurry photos, and over a year’s worth of predictions from pundits and analysts.

Now that Courier is stirring up interest in the market, it’s possible that we’ll see more of an investment from Apple in the tablet industry.

Pros and Cons of Courier and Apple

Assuming the rumors are true, and both Courier and the Apple tablet are in development and soon to be released, it is a perfect life-sized representation of Apple’s “Get a Mac” advertising campaign.  The Apple tablet will, of course, appear like the device of the future, unblemished and shown against a white background, doing fun and creative tasks and playing cutting-edge games.  Courier, on the other hand, will represent the optimization of the consumer’s business, creating quick and comprehensive spreadsheets and networking capabilities.

The question that may come to the minds of many consumers is why Apple needs to release a tablet at all.  With laptops getting smaller all the time, and smartphones getting more and more powerful and capable, an Apple tablet seems like little more than a bridge piece of technology that is not even necessary in the face of what’s already available.  It seems that it may simply be designed as an entertainment device, for playing games a la PSP, reading a la the Amazon Kindle, and surfing the web a la any current cutting-edge handheld device.

Everything we’ve heard about Courier, conversely, makes it seem both newly envisioned and eminently useful.  It doesn’t seem to use Windows 7 or Windows Mobile software, but rather an all-new operating system designed uniquely for Courier.  It’s also the first device to use two screens, similar to a two-page paper planner, with all the bells and whistles of digital technology.  Users can integrate processes to crunch data in new ways, like flicking contacts onto a map to see their location.  And, of course, it will have elements that users already expect, like note-taking capability and Internet access.

Clearly, these two devices will be radically different from each other, and people will be drawn to both.  For those who want a well-crafted day planner, with the capability to function for entertainment and social networking as well, Courier may be the better choice.  Apple’s tablet is more likely to be hip and fun, and while it will have some business function, it won’t be the primary design principle.  The tablet shopper should be clear on what’s most important, and then make the most of his choice.

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