Jay Greene, a journalist for CNET, has singlehandedly exposed the details of the Microsoft Courier, a tablet the technology company was developing that could have competed with the iPad.
The Courier was to be a two-screen tablet, designed to fit in the consumer’s hand the same way a book would. At five inches by seven inches, it was not designed to directly contend with iPad, whose primary function is entertainment, games, videos, and other applications.
Instead, the purpose of the Courier was content creation, according to the CNET article. The Courier would serve creative outlets that the iPad lacks, using a stylus and touch functions for artists, architects, and writers.
The Courier was officially scrapped by Microsoft 18 months ago, which was a huge letdown for many Microsoft fans. Before the announcement, videos of Courier details were leaked, and Gizmodo, a technology website, had extrapolated from rumors and facts about what the new tablet could look like.
Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft, had a tough choice to make between two possible tablets: one, the Courier, and another tablet that would run Windows 8 far in the future.
Ballmer chose the latter.
Nevertheless, he did not make the decision alone. Ballmer called in the mind behind the technology machine, Bill Gates, to help him settle on a vision concerning Microsoft’s foray into the tablet era.
On one hand was the sleek Courier, which promised a variety of potential if it became popular among corporate workers; besides some equipment problems that could have been solved, it’s major issue was that it ran a modified version of Windows.
The other tablet was more concept than machine, and would be put on hold until the new Windows 8 could be created and implemented into the software.
One thing was for sure, a decision had to be made, and soon: according to Greene’s piece, a survey by the Boston Consulting Group found that 40 percent of tablet users wanted a Windows version. This is a revenue and market share that Microsoft would be unwise to dismiss.
The ultimate decision came down to Ballmer, with heavy influence from Gates: cease production of the Courier. According to a Courier team member, the device’s inconsistency with the original Windows operating system caused Gates to have, “an allergic reaction.”
Microsoft does make a considerable amount on its main franchise software, which is Windows, Office, and to a slightly smaller extent, Exchange and Outlook. The Courier’s failure to employ these classic Microsoft components was the reason for its cancellation.
“It’s in [Microsoft’s] DNA to develop new form factors and natural user interfaces to foster productivity and creativity,” said Frank Shaw a Microsoft representative. “The Courier project is an example of this type of effort. It will be evaluated for use in future offerings, but we have no plans to build such a device at this time.”
Although the much-desired Courier is gone, speculation continues about the effect it could have had on the technology market, especially with the release of the wildly successful iPad and iPad 2.
To date, the iPad series has sold 15 million units. That’s more than all other tablets combined.