Microsoft announced its decision to eliminate its long-rumored "Courier" tablet PC project, touted by some as a possible iPad competitor despite never leaving a development lab. Video and photo leaks on tech blogs, supposedly of prototypes, suggested a device with two touch screens that folded on a central hinge, like a book. While other tablet PCs running a Microsoft operating system are supposedly in development, new rumors suggest that the most prominent of these, a "slate" from Hewlett-Packard, may also be killed.
Microsoft has killed its long-rumored "Courier" tablet PC
project, eliminating a possible rival to Apple's iPad. Although it never
managed to exit the development lab, early photo and video leaks on tech blogs
suggested the Courier-at least as a prototype-featured two touch screens that
folded on a central hinge, like a book, and was capable of letting users write
notes or draw longhand.
"At any given time, across any of our business groups, there are new ideas
being investigated, tested and incubated. It's in Microsoft's DNA to
continually develop and incubate new technologies to foster productivity and
creativity," Frank Shaw, Microsoft's corporate vice president of
communications, wrote in a statement widely circulated to media. "The Courier
project is an example of this type of effort and its technologies will be
evaluated for use in future Microsoft offerings."
That represents something of an about-face for Microsoft,
which for months would only respond to eWEEK's queries into the Courier project
with a curt: "Microsoft does not comment on rumors or speculative news stories."
And what rumors. Tech blog Gizmodo reported in September 2009
that Microsoft was fairly far along in the project, having developed a workable
user experience and begun showing off the concept to outside agencies. "The
dual 7-inch (or so) screens are multitouch, and designed for writing, flicking
and drawing with a stylus, in addition to fingers," read
its Sept. 22 posting
. "On the back cover is a camera, and it might charge
through an inductive pad, like the Palm Touchstone charging dock for Pre."
Even at the beginning of March, the project still seemed to
be gathering steam, at least according to the blogs that continued to post
video and images of Courier in action. On March 5, Engadget
offered a rumor roundup
that suggested the device wasn't "much bigger than
a 5x7 photo when closed" and ran "the same OS as the Zune HD, Pink, and Windows
Mobile 7 series, which we're taking to mean Windows CE 6." That posting
suggested a release date sometime in the second half of 2010.
There's no telling, though, how outside events might have
steered Microsoft's decision to kill the project. Its largest ostensible
competitor, Apple's iPad, proved to be a solid short-term success following its
April 3 release, reportedly shipping some 500,000 units during its first week.
During an April 8 news conference at Apple's Cupertino, Calif., headquarters, CEO
Steve Jobs announced that some 600,000 iBooks and 3.5 million applications had
been downloaded by iPad owners
, a number that has surely increased in
Other tablet PCs running a Microsoft operating system are
reportedly in the works. The most prominent of these, the Hewlett-Packard "slate,"
was first unveiled by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer during a keynote presentation
at January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas; in recent months, HP
executives had been posting on the company's Voodoo blog
how the device's
camera modules, Windows 7 operating system, and ability to run Adobe Flash put
it in contention as a strong iPad competitor. Rumors began circulating on April
29, however, that
HP had decided to kill the project.