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How the Microsoft Courier project got canned

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  • User profile image
    Ian2

    Interesting read ..

    "Steve Ballmer had a dilemma. He had two groups at Microsoft pursuing competing visions for tablet computers.

    One group, led by Xbox godfather J Allard, was pushing for a sleek, two-screen tablet called the Courier that users controlled with their finger or a pen. But it had a problem: It was running a modified version of Windows.

    That ran headlong into the vision of tablet computing laid out by Steven Sinofsky ...."

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-10805_3-20128013-75/the-inside-story-of-how-microsoft-killed-its-courier-tablet/

  • User profile image
    OrigamiCar

    Very interesting reading.

    It does occur to me that potentially the Courier could still be pulled off: get an OEM or two to produce the dual screen hardware (didn't one OEM produce a laptop similar to this last year?), refactor the Courier software experience to Windows 8 and you'd have a pretty good 'premium product' built on top of Windows RT. I'd buy one... I would imagine that the battery life and weight of a dual screen laptop like that would suck though.

    Wouldn't be suprised if Microsoft or a.n.other company take some of the courier ideas and principles and produce something nifty for Windows 8 tablets with it, even if it's initially for single screen tablets. Merge some of the principles with a future version of One Note for windows tablets and you could have something neat, useful and more importantly, something that the iPad doesn't do very well - content creation...

    If not - Microsoft should release the software as an open source developer challenge - get some interest around the community in taking it and getting WinRT developers to do something cool with it - never going to happen though....

  • User profile image
    brian.​shapiro

    , OrigamiCar wrote

    Very interesting reading.

    It does occur to me that potentially the Courier could still be pulled off: get an OEM or two to produce the dual screen hardware (didn't one OEM produce a laptop similar to this last year?), refactor the Courier software experience to Windows 8 and you'd have a pretty good 'premium product' built on top of Windows RT. I'd buy one... I would imagine that the battery life and weight of a dual screen laptop like that would suck though.

    Wouldn't be suprised if Microsoft or a.n.other company take some of the courier ideas and principles and produce something nifty for Windows 8 tablets with it, even if it's initially for single screen tablets.

    If not - Microsoft should release the software as an open source developer challenge - get some interest around the community in taking it and getting WinRT developers to do something cool with it - never going to happen though....

    Courier wouldn't work well with the in-box Immersive UI you see in Windows 8. What they would need to do is add features to Windows 8 which would allow it to function differently with two or more screens --- whether it be on a dual screen device like the Courier, or with two full desktop screens. "Courier mode."

  • User profile image
    PaoloM
  • User profile image
    Dr Herbie

    Windows 8, open OneNote and pin it to the side of the screen.

    You can now drag and drop from the left side of the screen into OneNote.

    What would you have to add to this to get Courier-like application (genuine ignorance on my part, I never followed Courier in detail).?

    Herbie

  • User profile image
    OrigamiCar

     

    Looks interesting - although I wouldn't even like to attempt to use something like that on a platform that doesn't have an active digitizer (wacom pen with pressure sensitivity) and palm rejection.
    One of the USP's of Windows 8 tablet platform vs. iPad is that they can have proper pen input as well as finger touch - like current tablet PC's, but hopefully on a better platform. Hoping that the OEM's don't just try to rip off iPads and have them finger only, but rather think about the additional benefits Windows 8 could bring...

    ...although looking at how a lot of the OEM's usually screw it up, I'm not holding my breath!

  • User profile image
    cbae

    , Dr Herbie wrote

    Windows 8, open OneNote and pin it to the side of the screen.

    You can now drag and drop from the left side of the screen into OneNote.

    What would you have to add to this to get Courier-like application (genuine ignorance on my part, I never followed Courier in detail).?

    Herbie

    First, you'd need to add more of a book-like visual metaphor to OneNote. Then you'd have to add a "pocket" that sits between the two panes and allows you to change what's displayed on the two panes without losing the content stored in the pocket.

    The only problem is that Metro is moving away from using a UI with graphical metaphors in favor of one that's more content-focused UI and devoid of graphical metaphors.

    This interface is about as anti-Metro as you can get.

  • User profile image
    Bas

    What a depressing story.

  • User profile image
    ManipUni

    Good job losing my posts C9. Forget it then...   

    The short version was: Internal and external competition is healthy. It results in better products. That is why Apple is so successful. The iPhone competes with the iPod, and the iPad competes with them both. The iPad also competes with a Macbook. The Macbook competes with the iMac, and Apple TV competes with everything I just listed. 

    Microsoft's lack of internal competition results in worse products brought to market and lazy staff. 

  • User profile image
    Bass

    I don't get how a company can hire 150 people to work on a product only to can it before it had a chance at market. That's something that I've only heard of happening in the government, and that's even pretty rare. It's very wasteful behavior.

    Why did Bill Gates get involved after the fact? Should leadership get involved before the project even starts?

  • User profile image
    vesuvius

    @Bass: This is quite a small number, especially when you consider that Microsoft usually triage a project, with x amount working on release A, and y amount working on release B., which is how they could get to Silverlight 5 in 2 years. If Microsoft invest in a project that used 20 people, any small to medium enterprise can come along and compete. Most software now is about amassing a huge amount of functionality that it becomes too costly for your competitor to create a rival product, they have to think big.

    Pretty much anything written in .NET and Java can be copied easily by a competitor, which is why the software world is fraught with failed projects.

     

  • User profile image
    ScanIAm

    , vesuvius wrote

    @Bass: This is quite a small number, especially when you consider that Microsoft usually triage a project, with x amount working on release A, and y amount working on release B., which is how they could get to Silverlight 5 in 2 years. If Microsoft invest in a project that used 20 people, any small to medium enterprise can come along and compete. Most software now is about amassing a huge amount of functionality that it becomes too costly for your competitor to create a rival product, they have to think big.

    Pretty much anything written in .NET and Java can be copied easily by a competitor, which is why the software world is fraught with failed projects.

     

    And this is the one reason that Apple shines publicly.  They are very good at waiting until a few other companies flounder over a technology and work out the bugs.  Then they release the same product (minus the worked out bugs) and trumpet their innovation.  They get all the accolades withouth having to invest and eat any of the R&D losses.

     

  • User profile image
    DeathBy​VisualStudio

    , Bass wrote

    Why did Bill Gates get involved after the fact? Should leadership get involved before the project even starts?

    Simple: Balmer is a salesman oh and also a coward with a capitol P. That's why he should be fired. He has no vision.

    Too bad about Allard & Bach. That was talent Microsoft could ill afford to loose.

    So once again instead of trying to be innovative they cower to Windows & Office.

    Most of the time I use my W8 tablet from Build as my PC companion -- rarely using it to do any real work. Allard had it right. The shame of it is that W8 ARM won't have the desktop so it won't be able to do much more that Allard's Courier anyway (and a lot less than Courier in many respects). Funny how they didn't make that connection. They suggest Courier's goodies will be used elsewhere but I suspect they have hit the shredder just like Allard's innovative studios that closed. IMO, there's just too many politics in Microsoft; the "not inverted here" syndrome runs strong (WinDiv vs. DevDiv anyone?). Wink

    The comparisons to the Zune aren't accurate. The Zune was late to market and was an also-ran product offering little new functionality (squirting was it if I recall). Courier was a new tablet metaphor unlike anything else on the market.

    Once again Microsoft game plan: come late to the market with an also-ran product.

  • User profile image
    spivonious

    As much as I would have loved to see the Courier come to market, I think MS will be better in the long run staying out of the hardware game. OEMs will make Courier-esque dual-screen tablets that run Windows 8.

  • User profile image
    W3bbo

    , spivonious wrote

    As much as I would have loved to see the Courier come to market, I think MS will be better in the long run staying out of the hardware game. OEMs will make Courier-esque dual-screen tablets that run Windows 8.

    Where's the support in Win8 for Courier-style dual-screens?

  • User profile image
    cbae

    , W3bbo wrote

    *snip*

    Where's the support in Win8 for Courier-style dual-screens?

    Windows 8 supports dual displays (and more). Making the displays Courier-esque is up to the device makers.

  • User profile image
    Ray7

    , Bas wrote

    What a depressing story.

    Quite.

     

  • User profile image
    Ray7

    , cbae wrote

    *snip*

    Windows 8 supports dual displays (and more). Making the displays Courier-esque is up to the device makers.

    Which they will be unlikely to do because they will not want to make something that would cost significantly more than the competition. The Windows OEMs aren't the most innovative bunch, let's face it.

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