What was known to only a few key engineers at Microsoft was leaked earlier this month and referred to as the iPad killer. We now have more information on the Microsoft Courier, and it appears to be a good contender in the emerging segment of tablet devices. But is it a tablet, a digital journal, or a tablet and a digital journal all rolled into one? Perhaps its part of a new segment of devices named Smartbooks. Regardless of what it is, Microsoft is going up against Apple and their latest offering: the iPad.
The Courier is in fact a digital journal and its goal – will wonders never cease – is in fact to make folders and diaries obsolete. If you’re in class or attending a power lunch and even writing down an important individual’s phone number, scribbling on the palm of your hand or a napkin is unnecessary. It looks like paper might just be a thing of the past sooner rather then later. Which is a good thing, because more trees, equals more oxygen for all of us.
This project is not near the manufacturing stage and is the result of two earlier prototypes from underground projects called “Codex” and “InkSeine”. The Courier’s design is quite stunning and compliments the designers at Microsoft. With dual seven inch screens hinged together, it folds just like a book. Rumor has it that the Courier has a built in camera as well, something Apple iPad enthusiasts eagerly anticipated.
All input on the device will be done through a pen stylus, which will allow writing, painting and sketching so you can doodle on the Courier while traveling the subway to your heart’s desire. The pen combined with courier’s hand writing recognition programming architecture, will allow you to write down a note and even type in a URL web address of a site. Where the Apple iPad sits in this department is still unknown, if using any type of stylus it would have to be of the sausage type, as the capacitive touch-screen will not operate with a traditional pen stylus.
Of course the Courier will support Flash, the much desired and unsupported feature Apple has managed to dismiss in the iPad. The debate comes down to whether or not HTML5 will be a worthy alternative to a world dominated by Flash websites and content. With Adobe Air, similar to Flash, standalone applications can be launched from within a device’s operating system. The main reason why the iPad will not have Flash could be as simple as Apple putting up a road block against developers who want to get apps onto the device and bypassing the iTunes store. Flash is known to be a CPU hog, and Apple’s A4 chip may not have the gusto to carry it.
The potential of HTML5 still has not yet been realized. Dynamic websites and content can be made, but its full potential is still 10 or more years away. Video embedding will play a key role in any device, HTML5 will go beyond traditional HTML making embedding videos as simple as inserting images.
But in the end it comes down to the user. What will you be using your smartbook or tablet for? Entertainment? Watching videos, surfing the web? Or will it be more of an interactive tool for organization and note taking. As both devices have different strengths in their own regards, it’s very difficult to compare the two.
Contributing editor: Fabrizio Pilato