Engadget’s Courier Exclusive…

5 March 2010

Wow. Some new details on Microsoft’s Courier project. A couple of details that are surprising: Size and Operating System. Both have some positive as well as potentially problematic issues.

In terms of size, when closed it’s suppose to be around the size of a 5×7 photo and about 1 inch thick. In terms of screen size this would put the maximum screen size of 8” screen assuming no border which really means that each screen is probably a 7” display. For a portable device, this is a good compromise. Assuming from the screen and interface shots that are on Engadget, the display appears to be capacitive + active digitizer. While I’m a firm believer in this combination of technologies, there are 2 particular issues at play with this device that will require a good deal of engineering and innovation. First is the glass for the display. The best capacitive displays have a very smooth coating. This allows the finger to glide effortlessly across the display. The best displays for a tablet with an active digitizer have a slightly textured display which provides more grip and friction for the stylus so that the feeling is more like writing on paper than writing on a glass surface. Thus there is a bit of a conflict between the best possible implementations for the screen. A textured surface also provides a secondary benefit which allows the users more acuity in their writing and thus can write smaller and neater on the display. Thus in order for the user to write at the scale shown in the photo above, the user would have had to zoom into the drawing and what is being shown is a zoomed out image of their notes. Therefore to get a “page” of notes at a reasonable scale it will require a bit of work for the user during the generation stage.

The OS is an interesting choice by Microsoft. It’s clear why they would want to go with a CE kernel rather than using Windows since Windows simply doesn’t have the same type of power saving potential and architecture that is found in ARM based processors. This is the same strategy as Apple with the iPad relative to the iPhone. The main issue here for Microsoft is that while Apple already has a ton of applications for their platform, Microsoft is starting with NONE. Of course if Windows Phone 7 Series takes off and the applications are “portable” to this new platform, there will at least be some critical applications that won’t have to be created from scratch. Regardless, Microsoft still has to get developers excited about the new platform.

All in all, I’m excited by the possibility of Courier and hope to get the chance to play with one and evaluate it in person.

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