Microsoft Shows Flashes of a Google, Apple Mind-Set with Tablet Prototype

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2009-09-23 Print this article Print

News Analysis: With the latest Web reports claiming that Microsoft is indeed working on a tablet computer prototype, it appears that the software giant isn't quite the company of old that made the moves and expected everyone to follow. Nowadays, Microsoft seems to be willing to take more risks and set the pace by being like the competition. But it is really serious about getting into the mobile and wireless hardware field?

Late on Sept. 22, a report from Gizmodo showed off what the blog claims is Microsoft's tablet prototype. Dubbed Courier, it features a day-planner-like look, it works with a stylus and, according to the publication, it sports dual 7-inch screens. There's little debating that this is exciting news for those who were expecting something big in the tablet space.

But it also underscores what I think is an interesting trend: Microsoft is becoming more like Google and Apple. The software company that once ruled the industry is now finding unique, innovative ways to not only mimic what the competition is doing, but in some cases, improve upon it. That's a new vision for Microsoft. It's a new way of doing business. And, ironically, it might just help the company achieve even greater success.


Microsoft's Courier prototype is the latest example of Microsoft trying to do more than provide software to consumers and the enterprise. It's also Microsoft's latest example of taking a few pages out of Apple's book.

Granted, Apple has yet to even announce the highly anticipated tablet that has been the subject of so many rumors over the past few months. But the very fact that Microsoft is even getting into the PC business is shocking. For years, the company has offered peripherals, but that was where it stopped. It allowed companies like Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Acer to sell the computers. 

It worked. And it helped Microsoft make billions. But if Microsoft releases Courier, the company will be doing what it hasn't done: release a neat, "next-gen" product that Apple might also be releasing in the near future. Cool hardware is Apple's niche. Now, it looks like it could be Microsoft's niche too.

Windows Mobile

The Apple focus doesn't quite end with Courier. Microsoft's Windows Mobile 6.5 and Windows Mobile 7 promise to take on Apple's iPhone far more effectively than the platform has up to this point. According to Microsoft, Windows Mobile 6.5 will improve upon certain areas of Windows Mobile 6, but it will be Windows Mobile 7 that will be the company's next big release in the marketplace. That operating system promises to have some of the features that make consumers desire the iPhone. So far, though, Microsoft has stayed relatively tight-lipped about exactly what the software will offer.

Regardless, we do know that it will be Microsoft's attempt at taking down the iPhone. It will be supplemented with Windows Marketplace for Mobile, a mobile app store that will launch later this year.

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at

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