Microsoft Courier – Potential Paper Notebook replacement

 

I’m really excited about the Microsoft Courier. If you’ve read some of my previous posts, I have reluctantly gone back to using my Asus R1F tablet and have indirectly given up on my Macbook Pro. Don’t get me wrong – there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the Macbook Pro or OSX. It’s still my desktop OS of choice. Everything just seems to work on the Mac.

Given then I’m no longer a developer, a lot of my work life is involved in meetings with the business team or the dev team to discuss new ideas, work out issues or discuss design. In meetings, I often find it a lot easier to use a notepad instead of typing on a computer to communicate or describe ideas. The tablet is both the happy medium and extension of these two solutions. It has the flexibility of a notepad and the ability to store and distribute digitally. The downside of my current tablet is that it is extremely heavy weighing at almost 7 lbs. The weight isn’t bad if all I’m doing is lugging it from home and to work. It’s a bit weighty to be lugging it around the office and sometimes across the street. The weight is not bad if you consider what it does but today, it is more powerful than what I need it to be today.

Here’s where I think Microsoft Courier comes in. From the demos on Gizmodo, the product looks more like a paper notebook or portfolio which I take to my meetings right now. It has two “pages” and the way it is designed to work is that one page is used for searching and research while the other is used to work on. The form factor is ideal and I love the idea of having both stylus and finger touch. The really interesting thing about the product is that most of the function that is being displayed here already exists within the Microsoft realm of products. The note writing, embedding of images, handwriting recognition, OCR and concept of pages is embeded in a combination of OneNote and Windows 7. If you’ve never tried, the tablet function in Windows 7 is phenomenal. The gesture support is already used in the Microsoft Surface products.

 

Courier User Interface from Gizmodo on Vimeo.

As there are still a number of things that are unknown about the product, there are also a number of things that I’d love to see incorporated into the device. Synchronization to a central service is key. Notebooks are really good to start ideas however at some point, most ideas need to be finished on a computer. Also for me I tend to work on multiple computers and other peripherals so inter-device accessibility is key. I’m not sure I would install a lot of different applications on the device but the additional applications that I would use on this device are instant messaging, email and multimedia player. Bluetooth integration would be a nice touch to connect to a wireless headset. While having the ability to do both multi-touch and stylus is really nice, I hope that the hardware is able to differentiate the two as when writing, my hand tends to touch the paper and could cause the device to go awry. The biggest unknown about the product is hardware. For me to be able to use it, it would need to weigh at 2 lbs or less. It also can’t be too big or too thin as this would be a device to supplement my MacBook, not replace it. Given that I’m usually moving around for meetings, it will need to last at least 4 hours and have the ability to change batteries.

 

At first glance, I’m not convinced that the Microsoft Courier is built to compete with existing PC Tablets. Think of the Microsoft Courier as what the iPhone is to the MacBooks. While the Courier is supposedly getting the full Windows 7 treatment, it’s use will be limited by its form factor. As for the Apple tablet, it looks like it’s going to be more of a multimedia device whereas the Courier looks to be more of a productivity device. All in all, I’m still very excited to get my hands on the product.