Microsoft has a not-so-secret tablet in the works, too

Apple isn’t the only one with a potentially revolutionary tablet-like device in the works. Gizmodo has the scoop on an upcoming Microsoft tablet, and in this case, there’s a lot more than rumors and speculation to go on—the story includes a concept video and some renders.

The tablet term might be somewhat of a misnomer, since the Courier actually has two 7-inch ("or so") displays sitting side-by-side in booklet fashion. Judging by the video, both displays have multi-touch capabilities, and the user can write on them with a pen. Gizmodo says the hinge at the center doubles as a "single iPhone-esque home button," as well.

Oh, and as if all that weren’t futuristic enough, this thing may even charge by induction.

As unusual as the hardware is, the interface is even more original. Only the video really does it justice, but the Courier seems to meld elements from the iPhone interface (with multi-touch gestures), existing tablet PCs (with pen input and handwriting recognition), and the Zune user interface (with slick panning and zooming effects), while adding some unique and surprisingly intuitive-looking UI elements and interactions. Pretty cool stuff.

The Courier has supposedly reached the "late prototype" development stage, so we should hear more soon. In fact, Gizmodo says it plans to learn more details in the next couple of days.

Comments closed
    • blastdoor
    • 10 years ago

    As I think more about this, it actually might be a smart move on Microsoft’s part. This really seems like a business-oriented device, not a consumer-oriented device. And it seems like a somewhat niche product. That might be wise on MS’ part as a first effort with a new device. Instead of going head to head with Apple in the consumer space, go after a market Apple almost completely ignores, and build a base from there.

    • Ayreon
    • 10 years ago

    This looks to be a refined version of the Codex prototype that they hacked together with two OQO screens last year:

    §[< http://community.research.microsoft.com/blogs/alpineinker/archive/2008/10/01/microsoft-research-codex.aspx<]§

    • ssidbroadcast
    • 10 years ago

    The only confusing part for me is this: How are they going to have a button on the hinge? I watched the video and it seems like there is a round button at the bottom of the solid-looking hinge. Maybe one side is much thinner the other?

      • Ayreon
      • 10 years ago

      I think the middle black part is a separate piece and the two screens attach and pivot off it.

    • Hattig
    • 10 years ago

    Well it’s good to see Microsoft designing something different for once. I quite like the book form factor, because it protects the screens. We’ll see how much we like having a large bezel down the middle of the system when it’s in our hands. I hope the screens are high resolution enough so that a single page can show a website with reasonable clarity.

    • jstern
    • 10 years ago

    When did the Windows blue screen of death stopped being an issue? Wasn’t that a 90s thing? I have to stop going to mac forums because now they are saying that this sucks cause it’s going to get the blue page of death, and bla bla bla, just repeating the same things over and over that make no sense this day in age. We’re in 2009. Driving me crazy.

    I would love to take one of these to school, it would be so convenient, but then I would have to worry about the other students, what if one wants to steal it, etc.

    • blastdoor
    • 10 years ago

    Cool demo — not sure what to make of its prospects as an actual product, though. Two screens will make it expensive. The hinge could prove to be a problem with respect to durability. The stylus is made to be lost.

    But the biggest issue for me is the handwriting. I have no interest in a device that relies on handwriting. Even if a computer could read my horrible handwriting, I don’t like writing things by hand — I vastly prefer typing. The iPhone’s touch screen keyboard is adequate for small bits of text, but when I type anything of length, I prefer a full size physical keyboard. I’m not suggesting that this device would be better if it had a full size keyboard (that clearly wouldn’t work either) — I’m just suggesting that I would never use a device of this size in the way that MS is envisioning.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 10 years ago

      This isn’t a trolly troll or argument but I have to ask:

      – How old are you? Did you ever go to secondary school or post-secondary college or university where you took notes by hand? I understand typing for input that’s purely typing-centric but for ‘notes’ of some sort handwriting is still superior to me. I ask because maybe that’s an age/ generation thing.

      For cases where typing input is superior I would expect some type of virtual keyboard, while inferior to a physical keyboard, could make such a dual-screen device more palatable.

        • blastdoor
        • 10 years ago

        I’m 36 — yes I took notes in high school, college, and grad school, and I hated it. If I could go back in time with my laptop I would have taken all my notes on the laptop. And if given a choice between writing on 8.5×11 paper or a 7 inch screen with a stylus, I’d pick the paper. This wasn’t appealing to me when the Newton came out and it’s not appealing to me now.

      • thecoldanddarkone
      • 10 years ago

      The only types of people I’ve ever heard complaining about tablet hinges are Mac user, not trying to offend you. Tablet hinges are fairly robust. Even on tablet sites you rarely hear about mass hinge failures. On both of my tablets only one failed because it fell 5 foot onto the lcd assembly breaking the main bar. As for handwriting vs onscreen keyboard (windows 7 has multi/resizable keyboard) it’ll depend. If your drawing (construction/mechanical) and taking notes it’s going to be much better using a stylus.

        • blastdoor
        • 10 years ago

        I’ll take your word for it on the hinge — sounds like you know better than I do.

        I can also see how doing drawings by hand is preferable to other modes of input — that could be genuinely beneficial to people who need to do that (I don’t fall into that category, though).

        I suppose that if the handwriting aspect of this is just an added “bonus”, but it still allows you to mostly use it with touch and type, then my complaint might not really be relevant. But if the UI really depends on handwriting, or if adding handwriting recognition means a much higher price than it would have otherwise been, then it could be an issue.

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