Thoughts about the Microsoft Courier

How about this thing?

Courier is the project name for a future tablet-style device from Microsoft. The story was broken a few days ago by Gizmodo, one of the gadget blogs. Courier is not quite a tablet: it’s two tablets on a hinge that fold closed like a paper notebook or agenda. Here’s a concept video that shows it in ‘action.’ Pay particular attention to the software.

It’s a nice, unique interface. Aesthetically, it’s strikingly similar to the Zune: obviously not as single-purpose as MP3 player firmware, but the Courier’s chrome is very far removed from anything that we can readily identify as part of the ‘windows’ family of UIs (Mac OS X, KDE, GNOME or Microsoft Windows). There are no windows per se, few navigation controls and a lot of what seems like really clever software guessing what you’re going to do next. Or, you know, great animation.

Of course, we’ve seen concept videos like this before from Microsoft: the Surface was initially shown in a series of evocative lifestyle videos, and what we eventually got was a $10,000 coffee table with a multi-touch screen.

It’s certainly a fun exercise to imagine where device software interfaces are headed (if you haven’t seen BumpTop, for example, you should). It looks like Microsoft is finally beginning to rally behind things that lie beyond Windows on the desktop. Too little, too late? Time will tell.

Funny aside: Eric Harlan’s goodbye letter to Windows Mobile is a must-read.

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