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The Story Behind the Demise of the Microsoft Courier Tablet

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the cool-gadgets-make-no-money dept.

Microsoft 200

UnknowingFool writes "When the Courier project was leaked out, it was a bold look at how MS would design new tablets. Microsoft was currently selling tablets but they didn't make a dent in the market. The problem was it was too bold. According to the story Ballmer had two competing executive visions for tablets: J. Allard and Steven Sinofsky. Allard's vision was very different from MS thinking while Sinofsky's was more in line with existing Windows but was years away. Ballmer called on Gates to help and Gates met with Allard. Gates was apparently troubled on how Courier would not mesh with Windows or Office. The project was cancelled shortly thereafter. An interesting detail was that Courier was more complete than most outsiders knew. While there was no one prototype that unified all the concepts of Courier, there were parallel efforts in the different aspects of it."

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Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (5, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#37919802)

I imagine that one of their complaints about the Xbox was that it couldn't be tied into Windows or Office either, but it ended up being a big money-maker. And even that has stagnated since Allard left the project. He was one of the very few "outside the box" guys that MS ever had. He was the one who warned Gates in the mid-90's that the internet was coming on big and that they needed to adapt Windows to the online world. He was the one who encouraged them to think more like Apple back when MS was still thinking "Apple?!? Ha, those guys will never amount to anything." The Zune was about his only misstep, and in fairness he was being tasked with an almost impossible thing there (catch up with the iPod after the iPod had already become the killer app).

Ballmer has been a shit leader at MS. And Gates isn't helping by still backing him. Losing Allard is just another symptom of the disease over there.

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (4, Funny)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 2 years ago | (#37919880)

IOW, you are saying MS is now a rich Zombie of a corporation?
This explains why they were asking for smart people. (Braaaiiins, needs Braaaiiins)

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (2)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920428)

IOW, you are saying MS is now a rich Zombie of a corporation?
This explains why they were asking for smart people. (Braaaiiins, needs Braaaiiins)

They have the brains, but they don't have the guts to use them.

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#37922194)

They have plenty of brains. Some of the smartest people in the world are working there. For once, though, they need more people with vision. People who aren't business drones.

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (2)

Haxagon (2454432) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920044)

Nah, they knew that the Xbox didn't need to tie into Office, if only because it was for a drastically different market. The courier was a true business tablet, a creation machine. Allard made the mistake of leaving it disconnected, and we all paid for it.

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (2)

SomePgmr (2021234) | more than 2 years ago | (#37921364)

I completely agree, that was big mistake. But you'd think that a prototype-level device could've been made to fit the company vision before getting the axe.

When the courier leaked everyone I knew said something like, "Holy hell Microsoft. Finally an awesome widget... shut up and take my money." And maybe that's Microsoft's biggest weakness... not being able to hear what people are saying.

It's really pretty sad, and the brain drain at Microsoft over stupid stuff like this has got to be pretty demoralizing.

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#37922210)

What I really don't get is why it couldn't easily tie into Office through their cloud storage thingy. That would be the perfect tie in for it.

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920432)

The zune had potential, the problem was that Microsoft let the RIAA dictate it's software.

the heaping piles of steamy DRM on the unit made it fail. it's "share tunes feature" was a ipod killer, and if MSFT told the RIAA to stuff it in their ass sideways and made the thing without any DRM in it it could have really made a difference.

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920488)

Microsoft needed the DRM more than the RIAA, in their own minds. They now they are on top only through vendor lock-in, there is no better lock-in than DRM.

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (3, Interesting)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920954)

No. The Zune failed for different reasons.
1. Brown
2. Roughly the same price as an iPod
3. Roughly the same features and performance of an iPod
4. No Mac Support (the iPod did Mac and Windows support)
5. They came in when the iPod was already really cool.
6. No one really liked Microsoft at the time. (During the time of Mass XP Viruses, Windows Longhorn delays, IE 6 showing its age...)

Without the DRM Microsoft would have failed further because no publishing company will give them rights to the music.

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 2 years ago | (#37921406)

It failed for the same reason most non-iPods fail, and why the iPod succeeded ...iTunes

Microsoft like most others missed the point, the iPod sold because it was ludicrously easy to get music on it ... and manage it, so it was bought by Apple's normal type of customer, non-technical ..... the Zune had no iTunes equivalent and so you had to learn how to rip CD's download music from a site then upload to the player etc ... for the same price as an iPod ... ?

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#37922284)

Zune had their software for this, though. And in many regards, it was better than iTunes. The Zune Pass was a pretty great addition.

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (2)

Korin43 (881732) | more than 2 years ago | (#37921640)

4. No Mac Support (the iPod did Mac and Windows support)

Come on, how many Mac users were going to buy a Zune anyway?

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (1)

Graymalkin (13732) | more than 2 years ago | (#37921892)

With no Mac support they guaranteed that number was zero.

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 2 years ago | (#37922258)

For Apple, tapping into the Windows market is a huge new potential revenue stream. For MS, tapping into the Mac market probably didn't justify the return on investment. Where they needed to focus their efforts was on getting the thing right for their main audience first and then migrating it to other platforms later - unfortunately they never did get that first part right.

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (2)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 2 years ago | (#37921866)

Basically, the Zune was a "me too" product. The Courier, however, had the potential to be unique and cool, but it was too bold for MS, so they missed a chance, and now the Fire is filling one of the gaps left by the iPad. (mine is on order).

Luck favors the bold. If MS doesn't seem to be getting any new luck, it is because their marketing strategy is cowardly and not willing to take risks.

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 2 years ago | (#37921384)

I don't think the DRM came from RIAA requirements. The truth is, Microsoft had an agenda. They developed WMA, WMV, and associated DRM specifically so that they could dominate media distribution. They would have made a fortune in licensing fees as well as creating a strong vendor lock-in.

The iPod was the only thing that really prevented Microsoft from controlling all of your audio/video entertainment.

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#37922254)

The Zune was a good device. However, it was something like 5 years too late. It was about as good as an iPod, but by that time, it needed to be incredibly, significantly better than the iPod for anyone to care.

They got another chance with their Zune HD Touch (or whatever it was called), but decided that it didn't need to be able to run apps, and so there was almost no reason to get one.

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920718)

I imagine that one of their complaints about the Xbox was that it couldn't be tied into Windows or Office either, but it ended up being a big money-maker.

[citation needed]

Xbox is still a billion-plus money-sink as far as I'm aware, and they'll have to spend billions more releasing a new one soon. Even if it's actually broken even, Microsoft could have made much more money by buying more Apple stock instead of developing game consoles.

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920822)

It looks like the 360 became profitable back in 2008. That could have changed by now.

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (5, Interesting)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920964)

It looks like the 360 became profitable back in 2008.

The 360 started making more money than it cost on a quarterly basis. I believe it's still a long way from paying back the money that's been spent on it over the years, and is unlikely to do that before they have to spend billions developing the replacement.

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | more than 2 years ago | (#37921162)

Ah, gotcha. And yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if they never entirely recoup what they've dropped.

Though I also wouldn't be surprised if they consider it successful (beyond sunk costs) as a defensive move. The defining lines between various computing devices gets blurrier every day.

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920776)

I imagine that one of their complaints about the Xbox was that it couldn't be tied into Windows or Office either, but it ended up being a big money-maker. And even that has stagnated since Allard left the project.

Kinect does not look like stagnation.

The Xbox 360 is likely getting a Fall update that contains significant graphical updates and a few new features, Kinect motion and voice navigation, Bing integration, and, ultimately, live television streaming.

If Microsoft's dashboard update looks familiar, it's because the design fits in the same family as the user interface for both the company's Windows Phone 7 OS and Windows 8 developer preview. In other words, Xbox Live will fit rather seamlessly into Microsoft's upcoming system OS, a future integration promised by none other than Xbox Live's own Larry "Major Nelson" Hryb.

Video Leaked: Xbox 360 Fall Dashboard Update [pcmag.com]

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920978)

Kinect does not look like stagnation.

Kinect wasn't developed at Microsoft, was it? I thought they bought that in from an third party?

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 2 years ago | (#37922360)

It's still supporting the platform, that's clearly not stagnation. Microsoft have done a lot of things wrong, and even with the XBOX they've not always got things right (RRoD), but it still seems like a well supported product for the time being.

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (1)

Pieroxy (222434) | more than 2 years ago | (#37921812)

Kinect does not look like stagnation.

That's because you have to jump all around and gesticulate while using it. But stop for a minute and you'll stagnate allright.

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (1)

Bent Mind (853241) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920804)

I imagine that one of their complaints about the Xbox was that it couldn't be tied into Windows or Office either

My 2 seconds of Googling didn't find it. However, I remember Gates talking about a completely sealed computer system running Windows NT. The idea was that the system would only run MS software on MS hardware. No upgrades would be possible. I always figured the Xbox evolved from that prototype.

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 2 years ago | (#37921454)

....it's what they wanted to evolve into that vision, they wanted the XBOX to be a home media centre, play games, watch movies, play music all on the XBox, now why do you need a PC ?

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (1)

citizenr (871508) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920868)

I imagine that one of their complaints about the Xbox was that it couldn't be tied into Windows or Office either, but it ended up being a big money-maker.

~$9B in the red and starting to make a $100Mil per quarter is NOT a big money maker.

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 2 years ago | (#37921420)

The Zune was about his only misstep

In fairness, Zunes aren't really bad. They're pretty good, but they're just not as good as iPods. The interface design is pretty attractive and clever, and in fact has basically lead to the UI being used for the Windows phone OS and Windows 8.

Re:Losing Allard was a real loss to MS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37922042)

asically lead to the UI being used for the Windows phone OS

Yes, another huge seller.

Bold, But ... (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 2 years ago | (#37919890)

Yes it was a bold effort, but the first major player in the market often gets to set the standards other vendors must meet. Had MS pushed the Courier to fruition we would be looking at a very different tablet landscape. Obviously they didn't want to push a sub-standard product to market, but in the end I believe the Courier would have been a quality (and interesting) offering.

Re:Bold, But ... (1)

Eponymous Coward (6097) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920506)

The iPad is not the first tablet [wikipedia.org], but it is the first one that has sold very well.

Re:Bold, But ... (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920982)

Apple was unique at the time as they made a different OS for the new platform. Previous Tablets were just PC OS's with touch screens.

Re:Bold, But ... (1)

WillAdams (45638) | more than 2 years ago | (#37921176)

No, early in the history of pen computers there were a number of operating systems and interfaces esp. created for tablets:

  - PenPoint - Go Corp.
  - Momenta
  - Newton - Apple Computer, Inc.

William

Re:Bold, But ... (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 2 years ago | (#37921562)

Can you tell that to PenPoint OS - released as a Tablet only OS, before Apple Newton, and MS's Tablet ...

In fact almost all the earlier tablets had a unique OS, that was their downfall the advantage of Apple iOS was that it was not a custom Tablet OS, so it was already familiar and already had loads of apps, because it was what the iPhone ran ...

Re:Bold, But ... (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 2 years ago | (#37922370)

And let me guess... it used a pen?

I have a Tablet PC that is pen based and I hated it. Touch is the only way to do a tablet.

Re:Bold, But ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37922276)

Hence his statement that "the first major player in the market often gets to set the standards." There were plenty of tablets before the iPad but none of them sold enough units to qualify as a major player. The iPad did.

Shame about the Courier. Watching the concept video, had that come to fruition, I would have seriously considered it over an iPad...can't say the same about any of the current Android tablets. And the real shame of it was that Allard could've given in on the 'no e-mail app" to ease Gates' "allergic reaction" it wouldn't have diminished the essential zeitgeist of the Courier one bit. Sounds to me like Allard picked the wrong battle to fight and ended up losing the war.

Re:Bold, But ... (1)

Volvogga (867092) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920572)

When has sub-standard ever stopped Microsoft before? It's the policy of many not to touch a new Windows, the flagship of the company, for a service pack or two... Though quite a lot of companies seem to be of the 'release it now and patch it later' mindset.

Re:Bold, But ... (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 2 years ago | (#37921618)

"Obviously they didn't want to push a sub-standard product to market..."

Um, this is Microsoft we're talking about; they do that all the time. And I'm not just saying that to be snotty, there's a whole history of examples: Windows 1 & 2, Windows Me, Windows Vista, the Zune, the first several versions of IE, the first several iterations of WinCE/PocketPC/Mobile. Microsoft often gets it right eventually, but getting a sub-standard product to market and then trying to fix it is a time-honored tradition with them.

And to show that I'm not just a Microsoft hater: I wish the Courier had made it to market (even if it was a typical MS 1.0 release), because it was a genuinely innovative design, and would have brought some different ideas to the tablet market beyond iOS and the iOS clones we're seeing.

they ought to rename themselves. (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 2 years ago | (#37919916)

s/Microsoft Corporations/Windows and Office Corporation/g

Re:they ought to rename themselves. (2)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920274)

I've said this before, and I'll probably end up saying it again. Microsoft is a "Windows" company. That is their product, that is what they sell. Everything they do is tied to windows in some way, INCLUDING Xbox (portability to Windows). This article only amplifies my point. Which is why Balmer needs to go, he's killing Microsoft.

There's STILL a big gap in the tablet space... (2)

davide marney (231845) | more than 2 years ago | (#37919932)

for a content-creation-oriented user interface. The iPad is abysmal at content creation. Maybe MS could take its Courier ideas and use it to make a really spectacular, touch-based version of OneNote that could run on existing tablets -- any OS, not limited to Windows. Keep the split-screen functionality, just do it in software, not hardware. I'd buy it.

The iPad already quite god at content creation. (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920254)

The iPad is abysmal at content creation.

Says who?

Millions are using the iPad for content creation every day - from drawing to music to writing to editing video. What honestly could the Courier have done you cannot do with an iPad and the right application?

I mean it theoretically had a stylus, but please. For art you can simply zoom in a bit more if you want to sketch finer details with an iPad stylus.

The reality is that given enough motivation to make quality applications, a device can become really good at content creation - the iPad has easily reached that point. Applications matter.

Re:The iPad already quite god at content creation. (0)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920314)

What honestly could the Courier have done you cannot do with an iPad and the right application?

Apparently email. We love to bash Bill, but in this case, he looks pretty good. A mobile device that doesn't do email, but rather has to tie into a separate device for connectivity? Not gonna sell terribly well.

Re:The iPad already quite god at content creation. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37920470)

What honestly could the Courier have done you cannot do with an iPad and the right application?

Apparently email. We love to bash Bill, but in this case, he looks pretty good. A mobile device that doesn't do email, but rather has to tie into a separate device for connectivity?

Check your glasses prescription. You're confusing RIM for Apple. In fact, so that's the sort of confusion that should have you checking your medication.

Re: (1)

davide marney (231845) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920652)

What honestly could the Courier have done you cannot do with an iPad and the right application?

Take a look at http://youtu.be/GlpftPSuXe4 [youtu.be] The big difference is that everything in the Courier is oriented towards keeping a journal of your content, whereas everything in the iPad is oriented towards presenting you with someone else's content.

Any by "orientation", I mean the whole panoply of user interaction, presentation, persistence, cataloging, etc.

Totally false (2)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#37921358)

The big difference is that everything in the Courier is oriented towards keeping a journal of your content, whereas everything in the iPad is oriented towards presenting you with someone else's content.

That is not even true with the default apps. I am presented with MY photos, MY videos, MY contacts I have stored. I see emails I have written, notes I have made...

Expanding out into other applications I use a number of note taking applications, and use a number of drawing applications too.

Yes I have a few videos on there of TV shows. But the large majority of my iPad is devoted to storing and displaying things *I* have made.

Re:Totally false (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37922138)

Regardless of if you or someone else is the author, nearly everything you mention is still content CONSUMPTION. Or, if you prefer, content presentation (by the device, to you).

The conversation at hand is about content CREATION, i.e., you making content on the device. The iPad is, in fact, horrible at this (as are most tablets). The only creation you listed was notes and the odd email.

Re:The iPad already quite god at content creation. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37921878)

I think that you missed the point of the previous poster. He/She was simply pointing out that it's like using a table knife to cut bread, you can do it, but it isn't going to be pretty and you'll be lucky if it'll fit into the toaster. So, yes, you can create content, but it won't pass the repeatability test (do I want to see it or listen to it again?)

For true HD video editing you need a top of the line workstation (next tear up from desktop), for truly artistic drawing and painting you need a dedicated drawing device like a WACOM, and for photo editing you need a display that shows the full color gamut and the iPad 2 is sorely lacking (see this http://www.displaymate.com/Gamut_2.html).

Granted, if all you are doing is posting photos on facebook and videos on youtube, then the iPad may work fine for the average tablet user. But for those of us who strive for some level of quality when creating content, it's a sucky tool....

Re:There's STILL a big gap in the tablet space... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37920260)

....
>content creation

It's called a laptop. I hear they are somewhat big at the moment.

Re:There's STILL a big gap in the tablet space... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37920518)

to you, in the 6 minutes you played with it at the apple store in the mall? yup.

To millions upon millions that actually bought one and use it, nope.

Come on back when you actually know what you are taking about.

One note is nice, but honestly evernote kicks it's butt so hard it's not funny. you should try things from other companies once in a while.

Re: (1)

davide marney (231845) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920866)

To say that Evernote "kicks butt" is a bit of an overstatement, don't you think? OneNote has the edge in organization (sections, tags); Evernote has the edge in cross-platform (web, mobile). Personally, I don't use either product, I use Zim because I need extreme cross-platform support. I only mentioned OneNote because that's an MS product, as is Courier.

Re: (1)

smurfsurf (892933) | more than 2 years ago | (#37921062)

OneNote is also superior in free-form note taking and information arranging. Click anywhere on the page and write/draw/annotate. Move your text to any place on the page. Evernote has a line oriented, top-to-bottom documents last time I checked.

Re: (1)

ckaminski (82854) | more than 2 years ago | (#37922018)

Zim is definitely NOT what I would call extremely cross platform. It works on Linux and Windows.

Evernote works on Linux, Mac, Windows, my Xoom tablet, and all my iOS devices as well as the web client if I happen to need Evernote from my Solaris machine. Evernote is a killer app (but it has plenty of room for improvement). Nevermind the web-clipper!

OneNote is a better tool overall (just in features), but it's lack of non-Windows support is a non-starter for me.

It was vapourware (4, Insightful)

Pop69 (700500) | more than 2 years ago | (#37919968)

I've stopped believing anything Microsoft announce until I can actually buy it in a shop.

Re:It was vapourware (2)

Haxagon (2454432) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920104)

They didn't announce anything, you insensitive clod. It leaked, plain and simple, RTFA

Re:It was vapourware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37920110)

I've stopped believing anything Microsoft announce until I can actually buy it in a shop.

And release a SP or two for it (XP SP2, Vista SP aka 7, etc)...

Re:It was vapourware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37920774)

I can't buy Windows 8 in a shop but it seems to be a real thing.

Re:It was vapourware (1)

oakgrove (845019) | more than 2 years ago | (#37922064)

No shit? You really think they might actually release another version of their absolute best selling product that half the company is built on? Next you'll be saying we can count on another version of Office!

Re:It was vapourware (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920942)

If you limit that to just Microsoft products, you need your head examined. Really it applies to everything in the industry - the product can safely be said to exist on the day you can actually buy it/download it and not before.

Re:It was vapourware (2)

Tom (822) | more than 2 years ago | (#37921138)

Really it applies to everything in the industry

Many, not everything. There are a number of companies known for announcing vaporware (MS is among them), and there are companies known for following their announcements with "available today" (Apple) or to reliably follow up with a real release - but most companies fall somewhere in the middle.

Blaming everyone is short-sighted. Check out who delivers and who doesn't. You'll notice patterns.

Re:It was vapourware (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 2 years ago | (#37921502)

Apple aren't the best example - when apple announce something, it's because it's available now. Not because it may be available at some unspecified point in the future.

Possible comeback? (1)

Moheeheeko (1682914) | more than 2 years ago | (#37919984)

I could see the Courier coming back with Win8, maybe a dual release? A New touch friendly OS with a tablet to go with it? would make sense to me.

Re:Possible comeback? (1)

Eponymous Coward (6097) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920560)

The upcoming crop of Win8 tablets are the products that the Courier was cancelled for.

Read the article - the Courier was a much more radical departure for Microsoft than any of the Win8 tablets are going to be.

MS Office will kill MS (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37920062)

I've said multiple times that whenever Microsoft has a new product in the works, the only question that seems to matter to the upper execs is: "Does Office run on it"? It's the thing that killed WP7 (which is still in the basement in terms of marketshare, and has no chance of ever going anywhere). MS sees their entire business proposition in terms of MS Office. And that's what's going to kill them, because in reality, MS Office is a product few actually use, even though almost every company buys it. Most companies use Outlook, but few business users actually use the other parts of the suite. Word is dying fast; Excel is more and more relegated to the accounting department (from which it should never have escaped). MS Office is a product few people really need, but which most upper executives have convinced themselves is critical to their business.

But the spell is dissipating. More and more companies are moving away from MS Office, albeit at a glacial pace. And no one thinks that you need MS Office on a phone or on a tablet. Word/Excel viewers? maybe. But a full Office suite? certainly not. And as PCs will likely disappear from the desktops of all but those knowledge workers who really need them, so will MS Office.

And as long as Ballmer is in power, and Microsoft can't see past MS Office, MS Office will be the death of Microsoft.

Re:MS Office will kill MS (1)

laffer1 (701823) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920618)

You must have worked at different places than I. I would agree that IT people are less likely to use office now, but most of my employers over the years have used at least one piece of Office obsessively. At one company (2 years back), everything was made in PowerPoint. I do mean everything. I got a 12 slide powerpoint with charts on how I "screwed up" a web application. The real problem was the Internet connectivity of the server which was not my fault. Anyway, the problem with getting rid of Office is that it's the common file format for business. Even if several internal departments switch, any customer facing department has to have Microsoft Office. The second you can't open a file or create one that looks bad in Word, you lose the account.

Office is what has kept the Windows monopoly all these years. It is their key product. If someone broke the Office monopoly, it could put the final blow to Windows. The Mac version of office is missing too much to pull users over. At one time, I had hoped it would be OpenOffice.org, but that ship has sailed. The best bet now is Google Docs or something like it.

I'll agree that focusing on Office for mobile devices is stupid. Microsoft needs to address that issue, but it's not an immediate need. Apple pushed on a mobile iWork fairly quickly after the iPad shipped. That's worked for quite a few people. It didn't stop the initial sales of iPads though.

Ballmer needs to take more risks; Microsoft just doesn't seem hip enough and their products are pale clones.

Re:MS Office will kill MS (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37920994)

>The real problem was the Internet connectivity of the server which was not my fault.

Let it go.

Re:MS Office will kill MS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37920796)

Word is dying fast

That's news to me. What do people use instead in the office to write documents that need review and signoff? (Notice I'm asking what product *do* they use, not what *could* they use to save money).

Re:MS Office will kill MS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37921226)

Developers, developers, developers!

Who says he can't see past MS Office?

Re:MS Office will kill MS (1)

Locutus (9039) | more than 2 years ago | (#37921456)

once they established their market dominance and were quite successful leveraging it to protect MS DOS and later used it to keep IBM OS/2 out of the market that is all they do and think about when it comes to new products. Bill and Steve did this over and over and over again. Protect the income and screw new products because that income is what pays the bills. I'm not surprised one bit we hear it again that is how they think.

I agree with the MS Office theory since Windows is stalling for growth and MS Office upgrades and licensing is their go-to market.

Because they must keep Windows valuable though, they still must spin Windows under MS Office correctly. Look at how they are spinning Windows 8 and how they are locking the phone and desktop together and forcing that UI onto the desktop.

LoB

Microsoft Myopia (1)

gnalre (323830) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920072)

One of the consistent items from the Steve Jobs Biog, was that he kept showing Bil Gates things like the iPad and the iPod and Gates just not getting it. So it does not surprise me

Microsoft over many years have built themselves a straitjacket called windows. They cannot do anything without seeing how it affects their cash cow, without realizing until recently it was strangling them.

I wonder how many other ideas generated from there in-house geniuses they hire every year has been strangled by there short-sightedness

My Courier's Demise (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920168)

My Courier met a disgraceful and ignominious end in 2008 when I was moving and realized that it was just inconceivable that I would ever use it again or that it would even have resale value. I was probably slightly wrong about that second thing (somebody, somewhere, maybe could have used it) but it didn't seem worth the trouble. It ended up in a box of stuff that went to a electronics recycler, and probably ended up poisoning someone in China.

FWIW, I'm glad Microsoft didn't end up tarnishing the once-very-reputable name "Courier." That name should be retired and always thought of with an implicit "US Robotics" prepended to it. What's next, Microsoft RX7? Microsoft P-38 Lightning? Microsoft Amiga?

It makes sense (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920230)

Everything must standardize to Windows if Microsoft wants to remain the biggest player. Producing a product, no matter how successful, that is not locked to Windows would a marketing disaster. Microsoft's message lives and dies on the belief that Windows is mandatory for a product to be usable. Balmer made the correct decision.

Re:It makes sense (1)

Relayman (1068986) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920646)

Isn't it ironic that everything Apple sells runs on some form of OS X?

Re:It makes sense (2)

Tom (822) | more than 2 years ago | (#37921032)

You got that backwards - OS X is made to run on everything that Apple sells. They didn't have an OS and invented a phone for it the way windows mobile was birthed. They had this vision of a phone and needed an OS for it. If you already have an in-house developed OS, modifying that is the most obvious thing you can imagine.

Re:It makes sense (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920748)

That is their belief, but it will kill them in the end. Protecting current profit streams has killed a great many companies and will continue to do so. RIM is dieing of this disease right now.

Courier was missing email too (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920272)

One thing I forgot in the submission was Courier was missing email. I don't know if they could have added a client later in development though. In this aspect I would agree with Gates however I suspect that MS would have wanted not just email generally but Outlook specifically. From the article, Courier was using a heavily modified version of Windows that stripped out much of the existing UI. Adding Outlook would have been a huge effort.

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory once aga (1)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920316)

The courier's form factor would have been a nearly perfect psychological fit to many things people use tablets for. It looks like an electronic book that can do all sorts of crazy "computer stuff." With the right software, it would have been perfectly intuitive as an eBook reader, notepad, sketchpad and several other things which would have endeared it to students, readers and business types.

I don't get how it would not "mesh with office." A company with Microsoft's resources shouldn't have any problem creating an Office Lite that has a touch UI. If they'd actually taken it to its logical conclusion with a solid phone, this very well might have done in RIM in the business market.

Re:Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory once (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | more than 2 years ago | (#37921004)

True, and they've already done this on a few occasions. They used to have Office mobile (it was pretty sad), but they had it nonetheless.

A new mobile version, even if it were new software that spoke OWA and basic office doc formats, would have been fine.

Re:Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory once (1)

Tom (822) | more than 2 years ago | (#37921006)

I don't get how it would not "mesh with office." A company with Microsoft's resources shouldn't have any problem creating an Office Lite that has a touch UI. If they'd actually taken it to its logical conclusion with a solid phone, this very well might have done in RIM in the business market.

Ah, but you don't get how MS works as a corporation.

They don't invent new products and then change the company around them. They go through their departments every now and then and look for "unrealised profits". Or they look at where other people make a fortune and ask themselves if they can get a piece of the cake, preferably the largest piece, without changing themselves.

That's MS greatest strength and greatest burden: It has never really changed itself. There is this strong core consisting of windows and office and everything that doesn't enjoy their company gets shot.

It was a niche market item, not mass market (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37920330)

I know this is /., but a quick read of the article showed that Allard was targeting "content creators" like architects. One of the areas Bill pressed him on was the devices ability to get e-mail and the response was people had smart phones or computers for email, if they wanted to use the courier they could use webmail. It was meant to be a pc complement, except it was so "complementary" that it stood outside as a niche market item.

While the dual screen concept was very interesting, I think it was Allard that was short-sighted - at least in regard to how the device would be used. I think if you look at how the iPad and various other tablets are getting used, you'll see communication is one of the big features. If MS had released Allard's vision as (the article claims) it was presented Bill, MS would have taken a beating for not including native email and who knows what else.

I think Bill and, I can't believe I'm going to say this, Steve Ballmer did the right thing in this case, especially if Allard was so tied to his vision of how the device would work/be used and what it would offer that he wouldn't accept suggestions about where he could add functionality to bring it more in line with other company goals.

I mean, in my reading of the article I got the impression that the cancelation was less about aligning with Windows and Office and more about being a niche market instead of mass market device. I know very well that Windows and Office revenue streams get protected, sometimes to the point of strangling worthy new products, but if this device was really "all that" then it should have been possible to add those capabilities. I am left to guess that either adding that was actively resisted or there were other limitations that prevented them from being added, and if that were the case it would be an even bigger black eye. After all, if it wasn't possible to add those features, what else would developers not be able to add, and developers are another area that tie in to the Windows and Office revenue streams.

Re:It was a niche market item, not mass market (1)

Steauengeglase (512315) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920614)

Sounds less like Ballmer and Gates were right and more like Allard was wrong in his response. Instead he should have said that they had plans for Exchange integration and it would be added in a service pack, because they wanted to focus their efforts on making sure that they had the best user experience possible, guaranteeing consumer loyalty to the new brand.

Sad really, it could have been a great device.

Re:It was a niche market item, not mass market (1)

Angostura (703910) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920634)

I think you are spot on. There's a huge hole in this story. Why did Allard simply not say "It doesn't have a fully-featured e-mail client at this stage, but we can easily add one"?

New products: "Microsoft Boat Anchor" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37920350)

"Gates was apparently troubled on how Courier would not mesh with Windows or Office. The project was cancelled shortly thereafter."

Seriously? Yes, Windows and Office are huge cash cows for Microsoft and it wouldn't make sense to jeopardize that revenue stream. But guess what? If Microsoft doesn't do it somebody else will, and then you're going to be stuck in the same spot with no control over how it might upset the status quo. Sitting back and avoiding good ideas makes no sense either from the perspective of how it might affect your traditional business, or even more so in terms of the possibility of growth in a new area.

Windows and Office are an anchor ensuring Microsoft doesn't go anywhere but where it is now.

There has to be more (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37920944)

I was very excited when the courier was announced, but also a bit skeptical about it actually making it into production. There are 2 things the current tablets are totally lacking:

- input via an optional stylus
    If I want to scribble down a quick note, or sketch a drawing, doing so with my fingers is just not accurate enough- I won't be able to read it later on. An optional stylus would make this much easier. This is not even possible with most run-of the line laptops.
- killer application pre-installed. Even the iPad has not figured this out yet. Yes, there are apps, but I am supposed to dig through this "jungle" of apps to find what I want and need, and then pay extra for them. Productivity apps should be included with the device ! Focus on what a tablet computer can do that won't be possible with a smartphone. Take advantage of the larger screen ! A tabled computer is too big to use as a camera or mp3 player and uses too much battery as an e-reader. There has to be something else besides games !

Whichever manufacturer figures this out first will be setting the pace in the future.

idea was too good for MicroSoft (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920990)

One of the few projects there I thought was imaginative. Good thing Bill quashed or it might change Microsoft's image.

Microsoft's own internal politics killed Tablet (3, Informative)

Shompol (1690084) | more than 2 years ago | (#37921298)

Microsoft fosters a very competitive internal culture. Competition is not always good, as high level execs refuse to cooperate with each other, disregarding any potential benefits for the company. Here is one reference [engadget.com]:

Dick's claim [is] that Tablet PC was doomed because the Office team refused to make a version of Office designed around stylus input

And this is the original article from NYT: Microsoft’s Creative Destruction [nytimes.com] :

When we were building the tablet PC in 2001, the vice president in charge of Office at the time decided he didn’t like the concept. The tablet required a stylus, and he much preferred keyboards to pens and thought our efforts doomed. To guarantee they were, he refused to modify the popular Office applications to work properly with the tablet. So if you wanted to enter a number into a spreadsheet or correct a word in an e-mail message, you had to write it in a special pop-up box, which then transferred the information to Office. Annoying, clumsy and slow.

Is it so difficult to make a simple usable tablet? (1)

master_p (608214) | more than 2 years ago | (#37921626)

Come on, Microsoft. Is it sooo difficult to make a simple usable tablet? You should not run Windows on it, but a new O/S, partially based on Windows code, that has a different UI and your brandname apps recoded for this new UI.

Every average Joe with two bits of common sense can understand that, why can't you understand that Microsoft?

Courier was too bold? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37921844)

Also, it was entirely too serif.

The courier might have had a chance (1)

shadowrat (1069614) | more than 2 years ago | (#37921874)

I'm a self confessed Apple fanboy. I've done my fair share of laughing at Microsoft for failing in the tablet market. But it sounds like they really could have had something with the courier. The article mentions that Allard envisioned the device as something that complimented the pc, not something that replaced it. That was key to the iPad's success. Don't try to be the workstation, just focus on doing a few things well.

This quote though really makes me think it could have been cool:

The key to Courier, Allard's team argued, was its focus on content creation. Courier was for the creative set, a gadget on which architects might begin to sketch building plans, or writers might begin to draft documents.

That is 180 degress from the iPad's model of being solely for consumption. I would love to see a device come to market based on that vision. Even the android tablets seem to be aping apple's hub of consumption model.

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