It looks like Microsoft is taking an exuberant stab at stealing the Apple Tablet's thunder. Microsoft's Courier tablet ...err "notebook" computer is reportedly in the "late prototype" stage of development. It is a tablet style computer that features dual multi-touch 7 inch displays in a clamshell configuration. A video posted on YouTube by Gizmodo (see below) demonstrates a mock-up of its exceptionally advanced interface. While there's no promising that this device will ever actually make it to production, if it does, it will satisfy the demands of both the tablet and netbook markets.
Its design just makes sense, for a number of reasons.
Maximum screen real estate in a small package: Assuming each display has the 800x480 typical resolution of a 7-inch LCD, the Courier will have 125 percent of the number of pixels typical of a 10 inch netbook with a 1024x600 display. It will achieve this despite being approximately 30 percent smaller.
Intuitive input: One of the criticisms of conventional tablet design is that its input area eats into the display space. By having dual displays, you can have your working document on one screen and your virtual keyboard and virtual multi-touch track pad on the other.
Pen & Finger Multi-touch: Multi-touch is great for intuitive scrolling and object manipulation. Pen input is great for jotting notes and drawing. The Courier might be the first device to incorporate both.
As an e-book reader: Its folding design gives the Courier the intuitive look and feel of a standard paperback. Though its display won't be as easy on the eyes as the Kindle's gray scale ectrophoretic display, it returns readers back to a familiar form factor.
The Microsoft Courier still won't replace a full-sized laptop though. Even the best virtual keyboard is no match for the tactile response of the real thing. People who do lots of data-entry just won't be satisfied. Still, I think this is the perfect compromise for people who want higher performance than they're getting from a Smartphone, yet something more portable than a laptop.
I'd like to think someone at Microsoft has been reading my blog since the Courier seems to address every single issue I brought up regarding the rumored Apple Tablet, and it even uses my suggestion of using dual displays in a clamshell design. However, it's more likely that the design of the Courier is just intuitive in the natural progression of portable computers.
Michael Scalisi is an IT manager based in Alameda, California.