Microsoft Courier vs. Apple iPad, who will be the farest of them all?

The Apple iPad and Microsoft Courier, two very different concepts in what appears to be a similar class of devices.

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


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13 Comments

  1. Karlo says:

    The iPad should be a little bit bigger. It isn’t comfortable to look films on it. But I the idea is good and the utility factor in the everyday life is good.

  2. im loving the ipad personally. what do you think of it now? was it upto your standards?

  3. Fiale says:

    If I can read on one side and make notes on the other screen, watch video on one side and make notes on the other screen – pull across parts of web pages, highlight text then the Courier will be a students / bloggers / journalist dream. Pulling up projects easily and quickly, updating straight to your site or emailing it -

    I want this today so badly…

  4. Tanuki says:

    Despite being a long time Apple fan, the Courier concept appeals to me more than the iPad. As an artist, I’m interested in using it as a visual diary. I use my iPod touch for this purpose, but due to the screen size and sausage stylus it is limited.

    I was under the impression that the Courier would have both multitouch and stylus input. If MS can get pressure sensitivity on it, that would be great.

    Anyway, artists like me are already using iPhone OS devices for content creation. The iPad’s IPS display is a major plus as it’s colour accurate: no need to check your colours on a desktop, provided there’s calibration of some kind.

    The Courier appeals, but it is still a CONCEPT. The beast that ships may yet be another MS turd.

    As for the comment about saving trees, all these devices run on electricity, most of it generated by dirty, polluting fuels. Studies need to be done, but it appears that the book may still be greener.

  5. BevL says:

    Don’t forget or underestimate the Courier’s appeal as an ebook reader. The fact that it’s about the size (actually a bit smaller) than a trade size paperback, combined with its automatic screen protection when it’s folded closed, means that it is far more portable than the larger iPad.

    And with all the nasty DRM out there, it will be reassuring to have a portable device (as opposed to a desktop or heavier laptop) that should be able to read multiple DRMed formats (Adobe, Kindle, Overdrive, etc) in addition to MSReader’s LIT format. Of course that’s assuming that the Courier runs some version of Windows or Windows Mobile.

  6. Yukon Cat says:

    Microsoft’s “ipad killer” is zune to be announced.

  7. Warren says:

    I was set to buy the Ipad, but I am holding off because the Courier is more what I would like to have. If the info was not leaked when it was, it would have been an Ipad owner come April

  8. I would pay up to 1200.00 for the courier if it really works sharp as demonstrated in the video. I would use it to do research, seems perfect to surf the web on the left while organizing everything on the right plus watching videos and reading etc, I can’t wait for this.

  9. Andre says:

    I don’t buy into the paradigm that the ipad is for consumers and courier is for creators. I honestly have to wonder what you will be creating on a 5 inch wide screen. I understand the journal function and I am genuinely impressed with tbs device but I would have to encourage Microsoft to add some size to courier. If your a lawyer that’s use to taking notes on a legal pad are you really going to feel comfortable with 5 inches of width and 7 in length. At it’s current size courier is an impressive toy whose basic functions can and will be mimicked by an app on ipad. While I personally prefer the ipad form I think courier can be just as compelling for other people if it gets bigger. No one is streaming tv on 5 inches and think of Internet browsing. At that size it’s not much better than a phone.

  10. William says:

    Don’t forget that the courier is still a concept. You can’t compare a concept to an actual product. Its up to Microsoft to underdeliver

    William, theamazingipad.com

  11. whitehaus says:

    according to other sites discussing the courier, it is not expected until 2011.

    which gives the gang at apple the better part of a year of iPad revisions and applications to combat Courier V.1 when it launches.

    creator vs consumer or not, given solid apps for the iPad (already a note taking app in the works), most of the Courier can be duplicated – perhaps even a stylus interface – although i doubt it, Steve Jobs seems to have a finger fetish.

  12. nico says:

    when will it be released the Microsoft Courier?

  13. James says:

    I agree, hard to compare. They are made for two different kinds of people. The Courier is made for creators. The iPad is made for consumers. Work vs. Play. Of course there’s shades of gray, but that’s it in a nutshell. They are only compared so directly because people are obsessed with Mac vs. PC.

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