Microsoft shelves ‘Courier’ tablet PC, e-book combo

30 Apr 2010

An innovative two-screen tablet computer code-named ‘Courier’ has apparently been shelved by Microsoft. The internal team working on the project have been told it will no longer be supported.

The Courier PC is understood to have neared completion and would have heralded a new age of pen and touch-based computing.

While the project has been shelved indefinitely, Microsoft believes the technology that allowed a computer with two screens to open like a book could be evaluated for use in future offerings.

Microsoft communications vice-president Frank Shaw, in response to questions from US gadget site Gizmodo, said: “At any given time, we’re looking at new ideas, investigating, testing, incubating them. It’s in our DNA to develop new form factors and natural user interfaces to foster productivity and creativity.

“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,” Shaw said.

The timing of the news could tally with an announcement earlier this week of Windows Embedded Standard 7 which the software giant intends to make broadly available to a wide number of devices, from digital TVs to other net-connected devices.

The presence of a Microsoft-branded ‘Courier’ device with two screens might have alienated OEMs from producing their own versions. However, with the availability of an operating system and a concept that has clearly sparked a lot of imaginations, enterprising OEMs may be free to produce their own dual-screen tablet PCs.

Consider this alongside yesterday’s acquisition of Palm by HP for US$1.2bn. HP is not interested in the Palm Pre, HP is interested in webOS and creating its own new product families of handsets and computer devices with an embedded OS to compete with products like the iPad and future iterations of Android devices perhaps running on Intel Atom processors.

It may be the end of a Microsoft-branded device, but perhaps not the end for a concept that others could run away with.

By John Kennedy

Photos: (Above and below) concept images of the shelved ‘Courier’ device as seen on Engadget and Gizmodo

Microsoft Courier


John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years