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Early Details On Courier, Microsoft's Take On a Tablet

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the page-turners dept.

Microsoft 175

rbanffy points out an article on Gizmodo about Courier, a tablet (or more accurately, a booklet) in development at Microsoft. "The dual 7-inch (or so) screens are multitouch, and designed for writing, flicking and drawing with a stylus, in addition to fingers. They're connected by a hinge that holds a single iPhone-esque home button. Statuses, like wireless signal and battery life, are displayed along the rim of one of the screens. On the back cover is a camera, and it might charge through an inductive pad, like the Palm Touchstone charging dock for Pre." A concept video shows off the ability to use the two different screens for separate purposes, like browsing the web or a photo album on the left and using the right as a notepad or workspace.

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175 comments

Looks like a nice device (3, Interesting)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515137)

Courier actually does look really nice. I have been thinking of buying a eBook reader, but the fact this has dual screen with multitouch makes me want to wait for this one, and that it can act as a tablet too. It makes it a lot more book like which you can see from the pictures too.

Besides eBook reader this would be a nice device to browse the web or do some work in the bed or sofa.

And I'm suprised to say this but compared to Apple's tablet this will probably be more open (in the not-restricted-to-apples-store way) and have a Windows platform. I hope they reveal more details soon.

Re:Looks like a nice device (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29515173)

This looks vaguely like the OLPC, no?

Re:Looks like a nice device (4, Informative)

Raumkraut (518382) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515279)

The XO-2, most definitely: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/XO-2 [laptop.org]
Asus are also working on something with a similar form-factor, last I heard.

It's almost like companies noticed that the original XO laptop spawned the whole netbook craze, and decided they wanted to be in on OLPC's next big idea.

Re:Looks like a nice device (1)

cnvandev (1538055) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516263)

I saw it and immediately though Hitchhiker's Guide [wikipedia.org] (the version from the movie). How long do you think it'll be before someone programs one for it, probably based off of Wikipedia?

Re:Looks like a nice device (1)

mobets (101759) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516911)

That would be a few years ago when Amazon released the Kindle. It has a built in WLAN adaptor and unlimted access to Wikipedia. Access to http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/ [bbc.co.uk] might be more apropriate, but Wikipedia is close.

Re:Looks like a nice device (-1, Troll)

hydrolyzer (1637811) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515263)

you say it looks like a nice device, i say you look like a marketer. include reference to desirable lifestyle: check diss major competitor: check statement designed to inspire further interest: check

Re:Looks like a nice device (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29515317)

Yep. Anyone who likes a device and can think of why they'd like it is obviously a plant.

Re:Looks like a nice device (1, Interesting)

Golias (176380) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515911)

Perhaps not, but I find it hard to fathom why anybody would want a 7-inch tablet from ANY company.

There are situations where I don't mind carrying a book-sized gadget around. In those situations, a small laptop is FAR superior in almost every way.

There are situations where I would rather not carry a book-sized gadget around. In those situations, an iPhone or Blackberry slips in your pocket and can do pretty much everything a tablet can do (and then some).

Tablets & eBooks are neither fish nor foul. Too big for a pocket or purse, but very limited compared to laptops or even netbooks.

Re:Looks like a nice device (1, Flamebait)

jim_v2000 (818799) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516003)

No one cares if you understand why someone else would want something. Thanks.

Re:Looks like a nice device (2, Funny)

Golias (176380) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516245)

You apparently cared enough to reply. Just not enough to explain.

Re:Looks like a nice device (0, Offtopic)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516617)

Ladies love my 7-inch tablet. Whip out your 3-inch smart phone and they'll just laugh at your equipment. A 11-inch netbook? Sure, it looks good in the movies, but even size queens get a little scared at that size. And forget about anal!

Re:Looks like a nice device (2, Insightful)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516847)

It's hard to fathom that there may be a product out there that doesn't fit your personal preferences?

I have no use for a smartphone personally. But I'm not going to be so presumptuous as to say that there's no place for such devices. I mean, it's neither a cellphone nor a laptop, but that has no bearing on the utility of such a device. Every new category of products exists to cater to a previously unfilled niche. It was the same with netbooks. And just as now, there were shortsighted/close-minded individuals who dismissed the device for not fitting into one extreme or another (palm pilot/organizer and laptop).

I mean, what is so difficult to grasp about the reasoning that: since there are people who have uses for screens sizes 4" and less as well as those that measure over 9", there might also be a market for screens in between those ranges? If there are people who enjoy reading books on a tiny cellphone screen, then why not a device with a larger screen that is still portable? Frankly, 7" diagonal is about the size of a small netbook. That can easily fit into a purse or any of the pouches or pockets on a standard backpack. Heck, that's smaller than a small paperback novel that can easily fit in the side pockets of most of my pants.

Your skewed sense of proportions aside, the functionality of a tablet/ebook is geared towards different applications from a netbook or laptop. Sure, you can read ebooks on a similar-sized netbook, but an ebook reader would benefit far more from dual screens than a keyboard. Likewise, there are people who require tablet functionality and not the extra features that come with a netbook. Some people might prefer taking hand-written notes or being able to highlight passages in books they're reading. A laptop that weighs much more, is far less portable, has a shorter battery life, costs more, and is inferior for what you need it for just doesn't make sense.

Step outside of that solipsistic head space once in a while.

Re:Looks like a nice device (4, Insightful)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516527)

Anyone who likes a device and can think of why they'd like it is obviously a plant.

In this case. it's pretty likely.

Anyone who's been around long enough will see this footage has all the signs of a typical Microsoft marketing puff piece.

Check out this video [youtube.com]. See any similarities? Can you tell us what happened to the innovative product being marketed? Do you remember Origami? Natal? Surface?

Microsoft operating systems are too bloated and slow to make an interface like this work, it's just another attempt to convince shareholders that their research money isn't being wasted.

Ignore it. Nothing of value will come of it.

Re:Looks like a nice device (4, Insightful)

manekineko2 (1052430) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515277)

To me this thing is in a completely different category from eBook readers.

What you're really paying for on eBook readers and the real benefit is an e-ink display, which this most certainly does not have unless Microsoft has made some technological breakthroughs they're not sharing. If you get an eBook reader that uses regular LCDs you're right back in the realm of trying to read a book that's printed on top of a lightbulb that's switched on, with the accompanying battery requirements of powering said lightbulb.

Re:Looks like a nice device (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515415)

I guess it depends on how you use it too. Myself I probably have little use to carry it around, so I would mostly be using it in a bed to read something or surf the web and so on. This probably dont have the same battery requirements as normal laptops, so the battery life would still be many hours.

The added advantage is that its not just eBook reader, but you can do a lot more with it. Personally I dont like using laptop in bed, its too clumsy or you cant get yourself in good position. If this is more book like, it works better.

Re:Looks like a nice device (5, Funny)

Golias (176380) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515999)

I would mostly be using it in a bed to read something or surf the web and so on.

You can just come out and say that you want it for porn. It's okay.

Re:Looks like a nice device (2, Interesting)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515555)

on eBook readers [...] the real benefit is an e-ink display, which this most certainly does not have unless Microsoft has made some technological breakthroughs they're not sharing.

I'd say they for sure do not have such a tech. MS doesn't develop hardware, they are primarily a software company that is also putting together hardware devices. They do not develop hardware tech really - they use off-the-shelf (a PC with nice case = XBOX) tech and use that to build their stuff. That is not meant negatively; Apple is doing much of the same, just a bit more successful. It's like playing with legos, the creativity is in how you put the parts together.

Re:Looks like a nice device (2, Insightful)

Abreu (173023) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516901)

Devices with LCD screens are still way cheaper and easier to read on than those darkgrey-on-lightgrey, expensive and slow e-ink displays.

(unless of course, some breakthrough improvements have appeared and no one told me)

Re:Looks like a nice device (1)

hey (83763) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517063)

It would be cool if one side was e-ink and the other was regular (LCD?).

Looks very nice but... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29515323)

Looks very nice, but do you really think that microsoft won't find a way to fuck it up? The software will be half baked, the interface poorly thought out or they will put in some stupid DRM...

Re:Looks very nice but... (1)

Brandee07 (964634) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515425)

At this point, it's still some designers throwing around ideas with some fancy CG mockups.

The iPhone and the Kindle were both introduced to the world as working physical devices on a stage. This is just awesome-looking vaporware, much like the following:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vBb3_aZN7g (first 30 seconds or so of the video are blank, for some reason)

Re:Looks very nice but... (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515573)

At this point, it's still some designers throwing around ideas with some fancy CG mockups.

It's not a intergalactic starship; is there anything in it that you think would be non-trivial to implement if they decided to build it? The hard part in these things, and the thing that will make or break them, is the user interface. That's what they're showing here. The fact that they haven't built a physical protoype yet is not that big a deal.

Re:Looks very nice but... (3, Insightful)

Brandee07 (964634) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515675)

The UI is just another part of the mock-up. It looks to be very dependent on handwriting recognition for character input, like entering the URL, which is very, very difficult to do right. (Has anyone done this well enough to be useful yet?)

There's no evidence that the UI in general is any more developed than the hardware side of the device- and until someone actually gets their hands on one, we won't know if the UI is any good or not. Remember, this is the same company that produced Vista's shutdown menu.

Re:Looks very nice but... (1)

Manax (41161) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515915)

Handwriting recognition is actually pretty good. I've got a MotionComputing LE1700 with Vista Business, and use it exclusively with a pen. I use Onenote, and push todo items to RTM via a custom add-in that I wrote. Now, it's by no-means perfect, but it is generally pretty good. It could be significantly better if it gave me an easier way of helping teach it my writing style, adding new vocabulary, that sort of thing, but I think the tech has gotten to the point of being generally usable. Also, to see some good development MS is able to apply to a product, Onenote is actually quite good (and looking around at forums you'll see lots of comments to the effect "I hate most MS products, but LOVE Onenote...") And the prototype they did with InkSeine was quite a break from traditional UI design... So, I personally think we are at a point where tablets with useable handwriting rec are here, and are more a matter of refinement.

Re:Looks like a nice device (2, Interesting)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515369)

It still has a backlit screen. I have yet to be able to read any ebooks on lcd or any other backlist screen. I've tried on my desktop, my netbook and my iphone.

At this point, it's e-ink for ebooks or nothing.

Re:Looks like a nice device (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29515481)

It still has a backlit screen. I have yet to be able to read any ebooks on lcd or any other backlist screen. I've tried on my desktop, my netbook and my iphone.

At this point, it's e-ink for ebooks or nothing.


Yep. Only e-ink for me for future readers. What's funny is that the only people that I know who have bad things to say about ebook readers are those who don't actually read. For some reason, they seem the most opposed to this change, yet they're the ones who won't be affected by it in any way (sort of like the hyper-religious and gay marriage). Everyone else seems at least interested, and when they see how you can use an e-ink device in full sunlight, they're pretty much convinced that's the way to go. That's not to say that other devices won't work for casual reading (iThings, netbooks, this thing, etc), but as far as truly dedicated reading devices go, e-ink has a HUGE advantage.

Re:Looks like a nice device (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29515849)

What does an eBook have over say a real book. I read quite often and really the cost and limited benifits (I really don't read more than 2 books at once) of multiple books don't justify an electronic device.

When you start talking magazines, and newspapers I'll start talking formatting problems on a smaller screen and you won't get any where.

All you do is pay $200+ to have all your books with you at all times (as long as Amazon doesn't take them back one night) and for what?

Not to mention that you eBook device won't last more than 4 years.

Re:Looks like a nice device (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517113)

What does an eBook have over say a real book.

Convenience of carrying your entire library in your pocket. This is especially handy on vacations.

as long as Amazon doesn't take them back one night

There are many choices out there apart from Kindle.

Not to mention that you eBook device won't last more than 4 years.

Why?

Re:Looks like a nice device (1)

amplt1337 (707922) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516993)

the only people that I know who have bad things to say about ebook readers are those who don't actually read.

Then allow me to shake your world.
I'm a reader. I've read around twenty-five books so far this year (and some of them should probably count double, since they were Robert Jordan (embarrassed cough)).
I am not a fan of ebooks, principally because paper is such a wonderful interface. You can make notes on it. You can skim through it easily. It has a great feeling of weight in the hand. You can put stickies on it. You can find an interesting passage by remembering where on the page it was located, what the surrounding text looked like. You can reread a book and find little food stains or stray marks and remember the exact circumstances under which you were reading it the first time through (rereading books is actually a pretty profound way to recall your real life).
Plus, no one will ever be able to surreptitiously delete your paper copy of 1984.

I know these don't seem like terribly compelling arguments -- they're about emotional quality and reading experience, not rationality. And I know that there's some real pluses for e-readers too, mostly in the area of portability and storage, and if I had an e-reader and had an accompanying e-book for every real book I have, I'd probably take the e-copies with me if I went on a trip... etc. But I just like real books, and I don't think an e-reader will replace them for me any time soon.

Add to which that ebooks are typically sold at hardcover prices. Screw that. If I'm paying hardcover money, I want a nice-quality book I can keep forever. Ebooks need to be sold at mass-market prices to be worthwhile; but they won't be, because most of the cost in putting out a book come from editing and marketing (which, naysayers aside, is actually really important). So, frankly, I don't see ebooks going anywhere for a while (short of as a lower-barrier-to-entry form of samizdat, which would be a good thing).

Re:Looks like a nice device (2, Interesting)

Abreu (173023) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517015)

The ability to use an e-ink device in the sunlight does not change the fact that when it comes to reading indoors (or in public transportation, etc) a regular LCD usually blows it out of the water when it comes to readability, price and speed.

IMHO, the most critical aspect of E-ink that needs to be improved is the on-screen contrast (the current "grey-on-grey" screens are nearly unusable on regular indoors light)

Re:Looks like a nice device (2, Informative)

Bat Country (829565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516249)

If you turn the brightness all the way down then read on a tight format black on white (like Microsoft Reader's default format) with a good print font (not a screen font) in a room that's comfortably lit, it's really no different from reading from a printed page. The light levels are identical and the contrast is just as good as reading a low quality paperback. I read on my laptop that way and have for years. It's quite comfortable, as soon as you figure out how to hold the laptop for maximum relaxation (actually less effort than reading a hardback book).

I keep seeing people on Slashdot complain about how intensely bright the screen is and how it's just terrible. Has it not occurred to anybody to turn down the backlight and then read in a well-lit room (which you should be doing if you're reading anyway?)

I can't read outdoors on a sunny day either because of the intensity of the light reflecting from the page, why should I expect to be able to comfortably read from a screen without turning the backlight down to minimum?

Re:Looks like a nice device (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29515549)

For the lazy ones who dont RTFA here are the images:

[img]http://cache.gawker.com/assets/images/4/2009/09/500x_courier8.jpg[/img]
[img]http://cache-foo-08.gawkerassets.com/gawker/assets/images/4/2009/09/500x_courier1_01.jpg[/img]
[img]http://cache-foo-06.gawkerassets.com/gawker/assets/images/4/2009/09/500x_courier3_01.jpg[/img]
[img]http://cache-foo-09.gawkerassets.com/gawker/assets/images/4/2009/09/500x_courier0_01.jpg[/img]
[img]http://cache-foo-01.gawkerassets.com/gawker/assets/images/4/2009/09/500x_courier5_01.jpg[/img]
[img]http://cache-foo-04.gawkerassets.com/gawker/assets/images/4/2009/09/500x_courier4.jpg[/img]
[img]http://cache-foo-07.gawkerassets.com/gawker/assets/images/4/2009/09/500x_courier2.jpg[/img]
[img]http://cache-foo-10.gawkerassets.com/gawker/assets/images/4/2009/09/500x_courier6.jpg[/img]
[img]http://cache-foo-02.gawkerassets.com/gawker/assets/images/4/2009/09/500x_courier7.jpg[/img]

Re:Looks like a nice device (0)

Old97 (1341297) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515837)

And I'm suprised to say this but compared to Apple's tablet this will probably be more open (in the not-restricted-to-apples-store way) and have a Windows platform. I hope they reveal more details soon.

What an interesting conclusion especially since it is completely contrary to the current state. In the hand held computer market Apple encourages anyone and everyone to write applications for the iPod Touch and iPhone. Their only restrictions are related to digital signing (a reasonable restriction) and the use of the App store (a less reasonable restriction). By contrast Microsoft won't allow any 3rd party applications for their new Zune (their iPod Touch competitor) except from a few select partners.

In the personal computer market both Apple and Microsoft encourage any and all developers to write applications for their respective platforms. Apple's platform includes far more open source pieces than Microsoft's. For example, Mac OS X is built on BSD and Safari on Webkit and Apple makes considerable contributions to the open source community. Microsoft, not so much.

So what evidence led you to your conclusion?

Re:Looks like a nice device (2)

mobets (101759) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516989)

Funny how you neglected to mention Windows Mobile phones. Anyone with a copy of Visual Studio can write apps for them. No signature or app store required.

Re:Looks like a nice device (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29516041)

Don't forget battery life though. On eBook readers you're looking at life measured in days, not hours. Not likely with two back-lit screens - not without a heavy battery that will make single-hand-holding impossible, another perk (esp. for commuters) of eBooks.

"Full disclosure" for the haters: I own a netbook instead of an eBook but I'm thinking of switching for the above reasons.

Re:Looks like a nice device (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29516519)

I was also surprised the Microsoft's tablet would use the Windows platform.

Most important question... (2, Funny)

Toe, The (545098) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515195)

Does it come in brown?

Re:Most important question... (4, Funny)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515231)

You can have any colour you like, so long as it's Beige

Re:Most important question... (2, Funny)

Ronald Dumsfeld (723277) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515533)

You can have any colour you like, so long as it's Beige

They've been working to make 'that damn colour' acceptable for decades.

But first they had to ban smoking everywhere so it doesn't go nicotine yellow in a few weeks.

Re:Most important question... (1)

dtolman (688781) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515811)

No... the real most important question is if it comes in Cornflower Blue.

Re:Most important question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29516213)

No, most important question is: Does it run linux?

Re:Most important question... (4, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516337)

Even better question: Will they ever bother selling it?

Microsoft has a nasty habit of fending off emerging threats by promising vaporware products that do the same job, only somehow better. In many of these cases, it's main job isn't to do $functionality, but distract attention and hype away from competitors (like, say, Apple's rumored tablet thingy), then the proposed product gets quietly buried once the hoopla is over.

It's a great way to suck the oxygen out of an emerging concept that threatens any sort of status quo... after all, Microsoft's profit margins got socked in the gut pretty hard by the whole netbook emergence.

Courier? No thanks (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29515249)

I'll stick with Vera Sans Mono.

Ergo Proxy (1)

bhima (46039) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515287)

There is a pretty good Anime named "Ergo Proxy". The main character Re-l Mayer, has a folding e-folio like device with translucent screens which I have coveted since I saw the series.

Oh... and the sound track is pretty good too.

Looks really cool (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515455)

But then it's Microsoft and it is not a release version so likely all the cool features will be removed by then.

Ok, joking aside: what OS will they be running? Is Win7 capable of such neat touch-screen tricks already? Is such a tablet (which looks a bit like a double PDA to me) powerful enough for such a big system? I don't think I have ever seen or heard about a system that can do the things they demoed (well it was a complete mock-up: the user's hand was even drawn so it was for sure not a video of a real-life demo), so not sure whether MS actually has a system that can do what they showed in that video.

OS and Software are the biggest question marks (2, Interesting)

mantis2009 (1557343) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515511)

The video provided by Gizmodo shows a revolutionary multitouch UI. It might be more related to the system Microsoft developed for its Surface computers, rather than Windows 7's built in multitouch. Whether the mockup described in the video represents an entirely new Microsoft OS or an application running on top of an existing OS will be an interesting clue as to Microsoft's strategy for the tablet market.

Re:Looks really cool (1, Troll)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515531)

You see, MS is planning different versions of Win 7 for this. Aside from the Win 7 Home Basic, Home, Standard, Business, business Ultimate, Ultimate and Ultimate Top versions of the OS; they will have the Win 7 Tablet touch Home Basic, Tablet writable Home basic, ...well just calculate the combinations (nCr) of "Win 7", "Home", "Tablet", "Business", "Standard", "Ultimate", "Pen", and "Premium". Run all the combinations and you'll get the editions that are offered by MS when this is ready.

To make this device truly useful... (4, Funny)

Bicx (1042846) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515479)

one of the screens could be replaced by a full Querty keyboard for rapid word processing. You could then hold it in your lap while typing with the speed of both hands.

Re:To make this device truly useful... (3, Funny)

Foofoobar (318279) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515643)

Querty? I think you put your keys back in the wrong order after cleaning your keyboard.

Re:To make this device truly useful... (5, Funny)

Bicx (1042846) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515935)

Uhat are you talking about?

Re:To make this device truly useful... (2, Funny)

pavon (30274) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516277)

Hou did yow end wp with tuo 'w' keys?

Re:To make this device truly useful... (1)

rvw (755107) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516415)

Hou did yow end wp with tuo 'w' keys?

Yow mean: Hou did yow end wp with tuo 'u' keys?

Re:To make this device truly useful... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29516477)

querty != qwerty

About Time... (2, Interesting)

ReverendDC (1547301) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515501)

Two screens double the size of an iPhones. Very nice. The pocket in the middle...very nice. the folding (a 15" combined screen area in a package the size of a small netbook)...very, very nice. If this thing even thinks about supporting Office, Apple may have a tough time competing with this thing if it is all as listed here. Of course, as with any company, things change before release (anyone remember WinFS?).

Re:About Time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29516167)

By the time MS has an OS that comes close to the demo, Apple will already have defined the market.

The Origami Project (4, Insightful)

p0 (740290) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515537)

Remember that? Wasn't it supposed to do this shit 3 years ago? Here we go again.

Re:The Origami Project (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516019)

Not really. Origami was basically a way of reviving Windows XP Tablet Edition in something resembling a Game Gear, where you have a two-hand grip and do most of your control through the thumbs. This seems to be more of a bespoke OS, in a proper tablet form factor.

Someone over there heard "e-books"... (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515541)

... and decided they had to look just like a book!

I don't see a significant advantage to this two-page style of design, but do see significant disadvantages - the big one being the awkwardness of holding it. It's only going to be comfortable to use if you're basically in those positions where a paper book is easy to hold, which pretty much means sitting down. There's probably a good reason the photo and demo video don't show an actual person using the device.

Books weren't designed with "mobility while using" in mind. To follow the book paradigm so closely smells a lot like upper-management "innovation". You know, as in "we need something to differentiate our tablet from the other guys' tablets! I got it - it should look exactly like a book!"

Re:Someone over there heard "e-books"... (1)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515681)

Well, I'm guessing it flips around and you can hold it like a laptop - maybe use the lower screen for typing (which would probably be miserable). What would be really cool is if the second screen could go all the way around like a spiral notbook, so it holds the form factor of a single screen device.

And as for upper management, I think the thinking goes more like: Apple has a single screen tablet device? Fuck it, we're doing two screens! [theonion.com]

Re:Someone over there heard "e-books"... (1)

manekineko2 (1052430) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515807)

I see a number of significant advantages to a two-page style design:
-Twice the screen size in the same form factor. That's a pretty big deal.
-Built in screen protection
-Last I checked, paperbacks can be held one handed if they're not too thick such that the binding closes itself.
-Familiar and attractive design.

Re:Someone over there heard "e-books"... (2, Informative)

bdsesq (515351) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515919)

I see a number of significant advantages to a two-page style design:

Having a hinge with all the necessary wires going thru it is not an advantage. Laptops have similar designs but this looks like it will be flexed a lot more often than people move their laptop screens.

Maybe if it behaved like a choir music folder (1)

TrogL (709814) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516435)

Hinged design that opens up fairly flat.
A strap to prevent it opening too far and damaging the hinge.
Another strap on the back where you hold it.
Maybe something like this [musicfolder.com].

Re:Someone over there heard "e-books"... (1)

Abreu (173023) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517125)

Actually, it should fold over like a book and have pleasant cornflower blue covers with "Don't Panic" written in friendly yellow letters...

It sucks (0, Troll)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515633)

Microsoft keep making products that assume or even enforce a particular work flow.
What about those of us that aren't sales droids or road warriors?
Where is the command line interface? where is the C compiler and ssh app and X server?

Re:It sucks (2, Informative)

Diabolus Advocatus (1067604) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515701)

Sure MS might suck as a corporation, and release dodgy software and charge more then acceptable for it, but their hardware division is actually quite good. I have plenty of MS hardware and it [i]is[/i] good quality, far better than the software. Don't paint all their products with the same brush.

Re:It sucks (2, Funny)

dtolman (688781) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515753)

Yeah - what is MS thinking, trying to sell to hundreds of millions of customers, when they could go after a market of a few hundred thousand.

Re:It sucks (1)

Bat Country (829565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516521)

That's a very good point. So you can't get your programming on the machine? So what? Don't buy it. It's not for you [penny-arcade.com].

You already have access to netbooks, laptops, cell phones (if you were mad enough to do your programming work on one).

This seems to be a stab at what the PDA originally was - a personal organizer that can blend seamlessly with work space. A majority of the people in the working world who would see a device like this as practical are exactly the sort of people who have to maintain calendars, make meetings, find locations, and just generally keep their world organized.

When I was working as a spotter for a utility locating company I could certainly have used something like this. Naturally, the computer maps were terrible back then (1997 or so) however, and an always-on internet connection was unheard of. Somebody who works for a living on the road and needs to find unfamiliar places on tight time schedules would love a device that worked as demonstrated.

This is also not to say that there'd be only one mode. They're showing the applications which are likely to catch the attention (and maybe pre-orders) of big business.

For consumers, how about some sort of fully integrated painting application using some of the physically-simulated painting research that has been done at the UW and Microsoft Research? How about taking that notebook metaphor along with tablet sketching and selling it to math majors? How about integrating Microsoft Visio and some sort of commercial drafting software with drawn shape recognition and intelligent snap settings to produce the ultimate portable CAD device for architects, landscapers, network specialists who need to sketch up a quick organizational chart, etc?

Students and professionals of virtually every kind could come up (with a little imagination) with a way that a device like this could be handy. Does hat mean it WILL be handy in those ways? No, but we're talking about the potential of a device and some rough interface concepts that MS has put out, not Microsoft's actual implementation once the marketers have gotten through with it.

If they found some alternate way to monetize it (as with the Amazon Kindle and its bundled store), they might even decide to subsidize some sort of cellular data service (like the Kindle). Would you see value in it then? I don't think it's likely that Microsoft would do something like that, but then again, I'm not that sure they could monetize the use of the device to the extent that Amazon has the Kindle.

Re:It sucks (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517147)

Where is the command line interface? where is the C compiler and ssh app and X server?

I would assume that the thing will be running Windows 7 under the hood, just with customized UI. If so, everything that you've listed is available, in many options in fact.

Why? (2, Insightful)

miffo.swe (547642) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515717)

Reporting on Microsoft vapourware is just plain silly considering how little of their announcements that reach the market. Considering how much specs that gets tossed out the window to get it out after delays upon delays makes it even more pointless.

"booklet" computer a great idea (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515721)

A screen that folds up would simultaneously solve two problems: First, be smaller for easy carrying. Second, be large enough for viewing whole documents and for older people.
I've seen "scoll" computers depicted in scifi: screens that roll up into a compact cylinder. But they sound further in the future.

Re:"booklet" computer a great idea (2, Insightful)

S1ngularity (1635987) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515945)

I have to agree with you on this one. The fact that it can look like a book sitting in your hands, with what looks like nice leather bindings, adds to a certain aesthetic snoot that usually only applies to Apples products.

cool (1)

OrangeMonkey11 (1553753) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515759)

This looks pretty neat, i would like to have one; it's about time someone come up with something that's dual screen and look like a compact day planner

I like it... but (3, Interesting)

rAiNsT0rm (877553) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515765)

I've always been a huge proponent of a dual screen laptop. A ton of people cry about the lack of a tactile keyboard and it always ends there. Haptic feedback is getting better and I can see that as the future but for now something like this is needed. A single screen tablet just isn't useful or natural and they never truly caught on. This type of device is. I think it should actually be oriented as a regular laptop with a simple sensor to know the orientation change to portrait mode and function as shown in the demo videos. Just having the option is better than making it a portrait only device for no real reason.

My other concern is that Microsoft is not good at UI design. Occasionally they have flashes of brilliance but on the whole they fail miserably in this regard. Apple is not always better, so this isn't some fanboy argument. What they should do it farm out the UI to a design firm, something along the lines of Art Lebedev. Let it be truly revolutionary instead of being handcuffed by old ideas and methodologies.

Foe me, you give me those two things and make it a bit thinner but strong and I'm totally sold. I don't think it needs to be netbook cheap even, a fair range of $1200-$1600 and I think it is a winner. Teachers, students, professionals, ebooks, etc. in one device is a disruptive technology.

Re:I like it... but (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516125)

It's not just "haptic feedback" which befuddles touch keyboards. You also have the issue of keeping your hands oriented on the keyboard, which is difficult when you can't feel it. Then there's ergonomics. To operate a touch keypad, you hold your fingers off the keypad when you're not actively pressing the buttons. That's the reverse of a mechanical keypad, and it's going to be exhausting. These are fixable (Nokia's tactile screen concept for the former, the Blackberry click-screen idea for the latter) but aren't ready for market.

However this all assumes that keys are necessary for text entry. Why not use handwriting recognition instead?

Re:I like it... but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29516799)

Handwriting recognition is a great idea, yes, absolutely, and it's even what they showed in the video—but I can bet you that it's going to get tiring. Courier apparently supports handwriting recognition for URLs in its browser—I'd bet some people here would find that inherently annoying!

Re:I like it... but (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516285)

Who is good at UI design, in your opinion, then? I certainly don't think Gnome or KDE are particularly good at it (or, honestly, most open source ... and closed source ... applications). I don't like Apple's, but I guess it works. I don't like the iPhone, but mainly because of the lack of multitasking. Personally, I have found Win 7 to be decent (better than Vista). I like Gnome better than KDE. I'd say Gnome and Win 7's are my favorites... and while agree MS isn't particularly good at it, I haven't really found one that IS. So I'll take the "best available." ...

Okay - I feel dirty for saying this but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29515779)

This actually looks pretty cool - I would actually buy one if MS released it...

it's nice but (1)

Anivair (921745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515875)

Looks neat, but can it run Linux?

Re:it's nice but (1)

mcnazar (1231382) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515981)

Looks neat, but can it run Linux?

I am thinking that extra effort has been made to ensure that it can never run Linux...abit like the xbox and then more successfully the xbox360.

Shame as it is what I love about my PRS-505.

Re:it's nice but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29516233)

you stole my comment!

It sounds good until.... (1)

Stu101 (1031686) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515903)

you think how DRM crippled this will be. IF it becomes a must have item, it is a chance to get DRM firmly entrenched via the back door. Especially when you consider the studios that MS has done deals with, and their love of Digital restrictions. It will be the kick start for DRM. Approved content only, from the MS Store, no loading your "downloaded" ebooks on this baby. Its the perfect platform for strategy shift without too much whinging from us freedom lovers.

It breaks the concept of MS = PC Only. It allows them to start again, with DRM at the core, much like the Xbox 360. Dump all the last 20 years of legacy and go "apple" style with heavy restrictions, especially music. And will it sync to Linux, will it heck!

Re:It sounds good until.... (1)

Abreu (173023) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517227)

Don't worry... if this becomes even mildly popular, we will soon be seeing dozens of cheap knockoffs made in China without the DRM

Remember the first wave of Chinese multi-region DVD players?

Re:It sounds good until.... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517279)

MS has moved away from DRM and control. They still do it, but it's trended away from it. Which makes sense since it gets them nothing and impacts there operation.

From the makers of Zune (1)

mcnazar (1231382) | more than 4 years ago | (#29515921)

Brought to you from the makers or successful and well beloved products such as the Zune.....

Looks nice but I'm not holding my breath on this one as I expect it to be hobbled/crippled and DRMed to infinity and beyond!

marketing trick to keep people thinking MS is rele (1)

Locutus (9039) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516279)

is there really a consumer level need for a dual screen tablet? On top of that, if you look at the costs of netbooks, the screen and touchscreen are a huge expense when you look at netbooks in the sub $300 range. I really think what we have here is Microsoft marketing attempting to pump up their falling brand name by making a device they can show "pushing" windows from one screen to the next screen. In the real world, it's just not going to cut it except for those Microsoft lemmings who buy everything with Microsofts name on it. You know, you people with the Zune.

And FYI, Microsoft is doing a lot of marketing to get the netbook segment pushed into the low-end laptop segment and that includes setting hardware limits on what is considered an MS Windows capable netbook and what pricing they'll give for Windows 7. Those low end, low power devices are a threat to Microsoft because Windows still does not scale down below the low-end laptop segment very well at all and they don't want to be in the sub $300 pricing segment or want it around.

At Microsoft, smoke and mirrors is job #1.

LoB

there isa consumer niche (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517083)

I'd love to have a 20" diagonal screen (17x11x1.5) that fits in a backpack (9x11x3).

Re:marketing trick to keep people thinking MS is r (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517255)

Actually it's the vendors that are pushing for a price and size increase in netbooks, not MS.

Am I the only one... (2, Funny)

Comboman (895500) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516879)

Am I the only one who expected the logo for a Microsoft product called Courier to use a different font?

Interesting, but (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517239)

can it switch sides for lefties?

I have doubts that the commands used for tiny device with be desirable for larger devices since that aren't as economical to use.

Also, does Apple own the Patent on using two touch point to adjust a screen?

I'd like to play with one for a bit.

If it had a phone and room for mp3s, this could become very ubiquitous in the business enviroment. replacing Franklin.

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