Gizmodo has revealed the existence of a dual-screen prototype Microsoft tablet computer, codenamed "Courier." Their illustration shows it opening like a book and using a stylus for input and control. The dual screens, described as roughly 7-inches in size, are actually multitouch and work with fingers and also accept gestures.
I am guessing that Microsoft had some part in the release of the information to Gizmodo. The company is known for selective leaks to friendly editors and Gizmodo got so many details that I have to think some calculation was involved. If so, a formal announcement may be forthcoming. If it's a true "leak," then I am not so sure.
Either way, this is not a surprise. Of course, Microsoft is working on tablet prototypes. Once Microsoft seizes upon an idea, the company is pretty good about continuing work until it’s a product or obviously will never become one.
Is it surprising that Microsoft still believes tablets have a future? No.
And I agree with them, even if the first models were more than a tad clunky. At the time, I predicted that someday a scribble screen would be accepted as just another feature of a modern portable PC.
I still want to be able to draw and write on my laptop's screen, which should also be daylight readable, BTW. Now it looks like we will get notebook computers that look and work like real notebooks, too. Perhaps from Apple and Asus and Microsoft's hardware partners, too. (Here is our comparison of what Apple and Microsoft appear to be doing).
Gizmodo reports the new tablet team is working under the direction of J Allard. If true, the effort should be considered most serious.
As Microsoft's "Chief Experience Officer and Chief Technology Officer, Entertainment and Devices Division," Allard, whose real first name is James, is a Microsoft legend.
Involved in development of the company's game consoles and Zune media player, Allard was also a pioneer in developing what became Microsoft's web strategy, back in 1994.
Please breathe normally while waiting for Allard's tablet to become a real product. The Courier we've seen is described as a late-stage prototype and I'd presume Microsoft may even have a manufacturer lined up, but only Microsoft knows and the company isn't talking (except, perhaps, to Gizmodo).
About a supposed race with Apple, I think it is more likely that Apple and Microsoft are working on similar products at the same time because enabling technology has become available, not because one has specific designs on the other.
Still, knowing Microsoft, I'd expect to see more tablet computers in our future.