Microsoft's Courier Is Already Doomed: A Simple iPad App Shows Why

microsoft courier

The tech world was surprised when leaks about Microsoft's Courier tablet concept surfaced, because it seemed MS had something really clever for once. But the Courier faces Appley doom. And not by the iPad directly, but iPad apps.

Courier's design represents a complete and utter departure from the usual MS UI drudgery, which is partly why the video leaks acquired by Gizmodo back in 2009 were so fascinating. The whole thrust of MS's thinking is to create a super-smart electronic journal, even while that description completely fails to describe the potential of the Courier system. As a workflow organizer, document creator, calendar and meetings and shared content portal, mobile browser, mobile camera, and emailing app, MS's effort really is impressive. Check out the video below to remind yourself.

Neat, huh?

Nope. Because now you have to watch this video, a preview of what will (hopefully) be one of the first apps to hit the App Store come April, called PadNotes.

PadNotes is self-evidently useful--think of the potential uses for students taking notes in lectures, for business folk adding in notes to the PDF of their big project proposal while on a plane, for designers to sketch their ideas right at the moment they occur to them and the iPad is at hand.

Now, PadNotes is not Courier. It's developed by a small software company (Tirpirneni software), and though it's clever, it's evidently a first-gen piece of code. But you know by the third gen, it'll be even more awesome. And it's bound to get to the third generation, if not well beyond that, because iPhone developers have already demonstrated that you can maintain audience attention and thus revenue streams by updating your app products with new features. And by the third iteration, PadNotes may well be more Courier-like: Even if PadNote's developers don't do this, some competing company--possibly a bigger one, with more experience, will try something similar with more sophistication.

And that's why Courier's doomed. The iPad is coming soon, and it will sell like hotcakes (despite analyst nay-saying.) Apps like PadNotes will be available in April too, actually ready for use. We know that creative folk, who the Courier seems aimed at, still have an affinity to Apple products. And the Courier itself is still a distant hardware/software construct that nobody will get their paws on for ages. By which time Apple will have sewn up the half-laptop/half-smartphone market that tablets like the iPad are perfectly positioned in, and there'll be a slew of apps that do exactly what Courier promised, and possibly more.

[Via 9to5Mac]

To read more news like this, possibly on an iPad in just a few weeks, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.

Add New Comment

48 Comments

  • Dean Lewis

    The other Microsoft product you don't hear much about, "Microsoft Surface". I think if Apply made it they would call it the iTable... lol. Only a die-hard Mac fan would give you the thumbs up for that trashy video speculating over what some apps could do.

    We know very little about the couriers ability to run apps. Even if it (like the Kin) cannot run apps, it is an innovation, where the iPad is not much more then an over-sized iPod Touch.

  • Andrew VanderVeen

    Oh no, painting with a stylus! This article is total bullshit iPad hype.

  • Syed Ahmed

    No offence but dont you think that Microsoft is Aware of the Apps that apple has already plus the ones coming ? u make a good point but dont you think microsoft will have apps ? yes apple already has alot but microsoft is more open to third party developers compared to apple sooner or later the apps wont be an issue if the courrier is going to be what the leaks have shown apple might wana add a few more things to its next ipad model to even compete with the Courrier ipad = no flash no usb (need to buy a separate dongle) no camera forget courrier ipad will probably have some trouble against googles Chrome Tablet but again thats just my take on it i respect your views on the matter all the same

  • Tony Kan

    Imagine if a version of MS Office was produced that was consistent with the Infinite Journal's interface. Imagine if you could handwrite directly into a MS Word document, a MS Excel spreadsheet or MS Powerpoint? Imagine if purchasing eBooks, purchasing various other media (music, videos) and consuming them all was also integrated into the Infinite Journal's UI, just imagine...?

    MS Courier is an opportunity for Microsoft to produce a computer that a computer illiterate could drive and do most everything they will ever need. Most people drive cars and never want to pop the hood. I think the same is true of computers. People want computers to be more like appliances. Just plug them in, enter a few details and voila, its networked, all the apps are registered, all the files are just stored and easily retrieved without having to manually order them in anyway...

    In many ways, the MS Courier better captures the essence of the Apple Newton than the iPad does. Despite its bad reputation, its final iteration had reached a level of sophistication and elegance which few computers have yet to surpass. Unfortunately by then the brand had lost its credibility and Palm had stolen the market. Check this out if you want to find out more about the Newton: http://myapplenewton.blogspot....

    MS has shown historically that it can come from behind (see how MS did this with MS Word in Japan) and take a market by storm. MS Courier gives them that opportunity in this new marketing opportunity, an opportunity created by this break out of greater user friendliness ushered in by iPhone OS.

  • Max Goney

    Apple has started a bad craze in the Tech world were people start thinking that third party apps are more important than the device they run on. This is not true and its sad to see that enough people think that it is for this post to even exist. Put aside all the awesome hardware things about the courier that are better than the ipad like the folding form factor, the amazing multi-use stylus, the ability to tuck things into the spine, the camera, and the faster processor and even in the software you still have a superior device.

    First off the courier can multitask and it can do it with one app on each screen. I know that Apple has bassicly said that you don't need to multitask on a tablet or phone or anything with a weird fruit on the back but the bottom line is that multitasking has been in computing since some of the earliest DOS bots. Why? Because its allot easier to have my web browser open on the left screen and my infinite journal open on the right screen and copy stuff down or flick stuff over on my courier than it is to copy in one app then close it then open another app and paste it and then keep going back and forth on my ipad.

    Secondly the courier has handwriting recognition this is something that once again due to lack of multitasking support no third party app can bring to the ipad and Apple isn't about to get working on it and even if they did they would be a decade behind Microsoft in their research. On the courier I can use my stylus or finger (though I have no idea why I would write with my finger) to write in the web address that I want to go to in my browser and then go to it. On the ipad I would have to type that up on a virtual keyboard with no tactical feedback. Even if your OK with that I'm sure your not okay with writing in your journal only to have nobody be able to read it when you need them to because your ipad couldn't use handwriting recognition when you first wrote it down. On a courier I could write in my infinite journal and then use the search feature to find what I wrote without ever having to use a hacked on virtual keyboard.

    Thirdly the courier has shown that if you write something in it then it will be immediately uploaded to the web so that you can access it from any computer or even your stupid friends ipad. No third party app on the ipad could implement that and even if they could they wouldn't have handwriting recognition so that people could edit it on their own devices.

    Also, the Courier runs on a Windows 7 base similarly to how the Surface runs on a Windows Vista base and that means that the third party apps developed for the Courier are going to be similar to the surface and the Zune HD apps. And I have used and developed apps for both the Zune HD and the surface and they are far superior to anything a third party developer could do in objective C for an ipad. So yeah I'll wait for a courier and just so you know the wait isn't as long as you seem to think.

  • Terry Hoke

    PadNotes looks pretty cool but if MS rolls OneNote for the Courier the cool notes app is already there, with tablet support. I didn't see anything in the Courier vids about it, but anyone who has used OneNote more than briefly should be able to see the potential for that app on that device. I doubt this is a Courier killer.

  • Michal Thomas

    Kit, you got me started and now I can't stop! I'm no fanboy, I just want more responsible journalism. Lol

  • Michal Thomas

    Michael, I don't know where to find your dilithium crystals or anything but I do know where you can see the Courier in the making. If you have time to be amazed, check out Microsoft's very capable allies @ http://www.n-trig.com. I, for one, am tired of the whole "amazing iPad" talk as if it were a brand new experience. When Apple comes up with another game-changer (or teleportation device), THEN I'll be impressed. They've certainly done it before, not THIS time. I'm not gonna give my cash to Apple knowing that THEY know that the 2nd gen is gonna start to address the glaring shortcomings of this thing. I'll wait for the new experience of the Courier. It's gonna be like a phazer: set to STUN! (get it? stun? :D)

  • Michael Streiffert

    Yes, Courier looks amazing. If I could buy one, I would. In. A. Heartbeat. But the only problem is that Courier is as real as the Star Trek Holodeck. As real as a phazer. As real as a dilithium crystal powered star ship. All that exists is a video mock-up of a concept. An amazing concept, true, but still as real as an episode of Star Trek. There's no hardware, no software, no nothing. It's just a two minute movie. There's not even a physical model of the thing. It's a wonderful idea. And that's the thrust of this article. The iPad will be in customers hands in 3 weeks. The Courier hardware hasn't been designed. The operating system hasn't been written. If it shows up at all it will be at least a year or two from now. A year or two of iPad upgrades. iPad app development. iPad market saturation. Yeah, I want a Courier. I also want a teleportation device.

  • Joel Gaskell

    Sounds like Apple fanboy nonsense. There is nothing particularly revolutionary in the demo app - I was doing most of that stuff on an XP tablet five years ago.

    I have no doubt the iPad will be very useful for certain applications, but the lack of a stylus is incredibly shortsighted. Who wants to write notes with their finger?

  • Cheri Harwood

    ipad looks like a large ipod touch - and oh BTW you can pay for one, but you don't have it yet either. Padnotes doesn't seem to compare to Courier in anyway based on that video. I bet the writer is pro Apple. If a pro MS person wrote the article it would read just the opposite. I'm not buying either until I can touch them and I am leaning toward the Courier for a couple reasons - if it stays that 5x7 size, it's about the size of my day planner and will fit in my bag and replace my day planner. If it can boot up quickly that would be a plus, that is why I carry a paper planner. I agree with whoever wrote about being able to sync up with other MS software - onenote, outlook - that would be another plus. Stylus? I am fine with that - everyone clamored for a Palm when they came out we even learned Graffiti for heaven's sake.

    Totally off the wall, but why can I get wi-fi on my Kindle for free (no contract, no monthly fee) and on my stupid cellphone I have to pay AND have a contract. Wi-fi on Courier is good, make it free so I don't have to find a hotspot when I am out and about.

    It might be a little early to call iPad a deal killer for Courier - I don't think the facts are all out and on the table yet.

    The world revolves around competition. Sometimes you have to wait longer for the best.

  • Andrew Parcel

    This story is like when your local nightly news says "How your children's toys might be killing them, more at 10" and then the story is about the danger of paper cuts. Easy on the sensationalism FC.

  • Stephen Hyder

    Two words - "pen input". Drawing and writing with fingers just doesn't cut it. Sure for entertainment purposes the iPad works great. I have an iPhone and am never concerned about a lack of pen input with it - but it's an entertainment device, not a productivity device. Plus, if Microsoft can make the Courier work as advertised in the two videos I've seen it will be exactly what I need.

  • Thomas Adam

    Oh Happy Apple Fanboy. This is clearly an article without bias. The "MS Courier" hasn't even been made available for the public - and Apple is on the attack.

    Until iPad, & the iPhone for that matter, have the ability to Multitask - they will never compare with even the concept of the Courier. (Even if it is based on Windows 6CE Mobile).

    http://m.smh.com.au/digital-li...

    Another blow to Mr Jobs global dominance.

  • Michal Thomas

    Andre, I don't think there's necessarily been an overreaction here. Your points as well as Kit's have been well made. But have you seen the title of the article?!? This is where the frustration comes from. The Courier is not going to be rendered obsolete or even threatened by the iPad or it's software. Saying so is like saying the ipod touch will eliminate the Blackberry! These are two very different devices, with very different core uses. My need to work or play would determine which one I would spend time on. The Courier is just one device that a lot of us have been patiently waiting for. The iPad is one that people are already trying to upgrade.

  • Andre Samuels

    I think that 90% of the people posting here have missed the point of this article entirely. They have some how missed that this is a test video, an app in progress. It's just supposed to show that paint apps can be adapted to allow for productive writing tasks. I think that everyone was impressed with the functional capacities of courier. And most people wanted to see some of those in the ipad. Thus video is just showing that you can use the ipad with it's multi touch screen for things like note taking, homework assignments and drawing. The app is not finished yet, sort of like the courier. Expecting it to show all of the features Microsoft imagines for it's device now us like demanding to see a finished courier in the stores tomorrow. And predicating your criticisms on the factbthat the ipad doesn't conevwith a stylus, or making juvenile comments about people having to write on ipad with their fingers is, once again missing the point. Third party styluses will be available to purchase. This concept video is proof they can work. What does remain to be seen is iff some innovative app maker can put together some sort of pen input version of iWork that will mimic the infinite journals features of courier. It also reamins to be seen how app makers can mimic features that seem to require multitasking like inserting photos or browsing and thenbgrabbing pics off of the Internet. With no multitasking on ipad these features could still be lacking. But quite frankly it remains to be seen if Microsoft can pull those off as well. All in all both are great designs. I hope courier is bigger than the rumored 5x7 because there us very little journaling I would do on such a small area. I still see ipad having the advantage. Even this preliminary app shows that ipad can mimic courier but seems unlikely that the small courier can mimic the media consumption experience of ipad. The dual screens just don't lend themselves to tv, movies, or even Internet browsing.