Perhaps I’m just jaded, but I can’t get excited over the two videos Gizmodo has put up demonstrating Microsoft’s Courier concept. First of all, Gizmodo is treating it as if it is a unique, unforeseen vision for a tablet computer. What exactly makes it so innovative? Is it the folding, two-page form factor? I don’t think so. Last year saw Negroponte’s announcement of the second-generation OLPC XO: the XO-2.
And there was the Canovo that made the rounds in 2007.
Well, then, is it the stylus? Surely not—we’ve had tablets and PDAs for years that have those. The iPhone was revolutionary for doing away with the stylus. Okay, could it be the multi-touch? Obviously not, as we’ve seen that in the iPhone, Surface, and any number of other demonstrations. And the combination of the two is already available in tablets such as Panasonic’s Toughbooks.
I’ve ruled out the form factor and input methods, so it isn’t the device itself or the technology behind it. Is the user interface especially innovative? There are some interesting ideas in it. Using the spine as a place to tuck things that you want to move from one page to another is a clever implementation of cut and paste, but beyond that, I don’t see any interaction patterns that I haven’t seen before. Quite frankly, I don’t find the scenarios to be very compelling. The UI has that “visionary concept” quality to it that suggests it hasn’t been fleshed out much beyond the script. The handwriting recognition is flawless, the screens show only the controls that provide access to the features showcased, and complex actions, such as selecting and copying a graphic and two columns of a 3-column table, are accomplished with a single touch of a finger.
Yes, it’s an interesting concept, and yes, there is value in creating such visionary explorations. However, I’ve seen far too many of these that don’t result in anything other than inspiration (not to say there is anything wrong with that), and Microsoft in particular has a horrible track record of delivering innovative products. Please pardon me for some uncharacteristic pessimism. I’m not going to take a deep breath, let alone hold it.