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Microsoft's tablet (gizmodo.com)
57 points by Arsene on Jan 4, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 40 comments

This should not be here because:

a) it's not a product

b) it's not even a prototype

c) it's from last September (and thus is not news)

d) nothing has been heard since (it's dead)

e) it's resurrected every time there is buzz about an Apple tablet - wonder if MS's PR has anything to do with it.

it's from last September ... nothing has been heard since (it's dead)

I'm not sure that follows. Last September isn't that long ago.

first sentence of the article: Courier is a real device, and we've heard that it's in the "late prototype" stage of development.

So It's at least a prototype

Yeah, right. Like WinFS, I suppose, or the Windows Vista that got shown at PDC 2003...

Editorializing the headline, no thank you. "Microsoft Courier tablet designs leaked" or the original "Courier: First Details of Microsoft's Secret Tablet" would have been better.

From the guidelines:

You can make up a new title if you want, but if you put gratuitous editorial spin on it, the editors may rewrite it.

If they had an actual prototype, that's what they'd be showing, instead of a mockup, yes?

And a non-working mock-up at that.

If we wanted to get fancy, they could call it a "mass simulator". All it does is simulate the device's shape and mass.

When it is not just a CGI model, that is.

Yes. Did the article suggest otherwise?

How old does an article have to be before we can stop calling it "news"? And the corollary: Is there any theoretical limit to the number of times it can it appear on Hacker News before it starts looking a little stale?

The only question is -- can they also create a user experience to match Apple's. That would basically mean software which should be extremely intuitive, simple, and to the point, where touch features don't feel as an afterthought on a solid OS.

We will have to see whether Windows derivative tablet OS is capable of supporting tablet form better than it does for mobiles/smartphones, to try and match Mac OS's versatility. If it does not, then no matter how good the hardware is, it will still be a number 2.

why don't any of the tech journalists gushing over designs seem to grasp this? we already have tablet interfaces that haven't taken off because they suck. they're unintuitive buggy messes. whomever solves this first wins, regardless of the hardware.

You do remember the Newton, right?

Or the Momenta?

Mentioning the Newton makes me think of how Microsoft still seems obsessed with handwriting/pen interfaces. This may be a generational thing. There seems to be an assumption that the average person finds writing with a pen the most natural way to record information. But I bet there are a lot of us now who spend more time typing on a keyboard than writing with a pen. I found myself surprised, for example, when the user hand-wrote a URL in the browser app to go to a page. Hand-writing a URL is a pretty foreign experience, except in those rare cases when I need to remember a URL and I'm away from a computer (and I can't remember the last time I actually did that).

Your comment also got me Googling for the Simpson's clip that was pretty much the Newton's tombstone. But I found the video introducing the Newton at the bottom of this page more interesting:


One interesting thing is that it is clear that the Newton was struggling to find a way to move data around before the dawn of the world wide web. You can print! Or fax! At least, you can the next time you are physically next to a device. Or you can "beam" something who happens to be in close proximity. Er, if they also have a Newton.

The fact that literally half of the intro video is devoted to getting the handwriting recognition to work correctly, though, is certainly ominous. It indicates that the hand-writing interface was not as intuitive as they had hoped.

Which brings us back to Microsoft and pens. I wonder if the vision for tablet computing was born out of Gates and his generation's familiarity with hand writing and inherently assuming that the average person is more comfortable with it than keyboards, and not updating those assumptions for the current generation who spend far more time updating their Facebook status on a keyboard than taking notes in class (assuming they don't use a laptop for that, too).

"There seems to be an assumption that the average person finds writing with a pen the most natural way to record information."

This is a valid assumption, writing with a pen IS the most natural way for humans to record information, this includes drawing figures(how do you draw sketchs with a keyboard?).

The problem is that machines don't have a brain and find very difficult to decode pen writing, the first that solve this problem will win a lot of fans.

PS: I type very fast, but I don't like the keyboard as much as pen.

I am almost completely unable to write anymore. I've been typing for 2/3rds of my life and haven't done any serious pen writing for the last 15 years. I'm sure with some practice I could get used to it but I don't see a need. Keyboards are just more natural to me. I learned to write English and spell via QWERTY. In fact I don't really know how many words I type are spelled. I just know what sequence of key-presses are required to make them. My understanding of grammar is tied to the ability to quickly edit. It's trial & error grammar. Sometimes I have to type something out a few times to determine what is proper grammar or at least passable as a coherent sentence. I've noticed when I do write with a pen my spelling & grammar skills revert to the level they were at when I stopped writing 15 years ago. (significantly worse)

OK, that's right. But think for a moment the quantity and quality of the restrictions that needing a keyboard imposes:

-It is a big thing that requires a lot of space. -It is slow to learn. -It makes sound. -Gets dirty. -You can't write with emotions, or tone, nuances are lost.

On a laptop, makes it really difficult to rotate the screen(I'm writing on a rotated laptop right now, if you try it you will be slow at first, but I'm faster this way).

I'm experimenting with my own sound recognition programs and note taking, I thing that is the future. IMHO we will talk with computers, and the children of your children will see keyboards as awkward as they are.

More importantly, every pen writing interface I've ever used has basically sucked, including the Windows Mobile interface. I doubt that is a solved problem.

I liked the Newton's later incarnations. I still miss the ability to quickly jot down "dinner Clara friday" and having an appointment set.

I still get this odd whiff of Microsoft pulling out the old playbook and doing a "we're working on this too!" FUD maneuver, knowing Apple was working on something similar.

Remember Pen Windows?

Microsoft generally are "working on this too" - they're a big company, and spend a lot on research. Hot research topics aren't that hard to spot. Whether it comes to delivering anything commercially is a different matter.

Yes, but the coincidence is funny. These imaginary products always appear when some competitor is about to launch something that may threaten Microsoft's mindshare.

BTW, is Project Natal shipping?

I would have phrased that as "These research projects always get surfaced when some competitor is about to launch something.." otherwise, yeah, it's about publicity and mindshare.

BTW, is Project Natal shipping?

I don't know, but they are hiring.

No... Apple didn't call the Knowledge navigator a research project. This too shouldn't be misrepresented as one.

Microsoft Surface is arguably a tablet... Just a rather large one ;-)

As things like the XBOX 360 and the various MS mice show, MS hardware is actually pretty good. They seem to keep hitting failure when the dev an interesting hardware platform and just license it out (list is too long to write here).

They need to just make this themselves.

I love the natural keyboards. The mice are decent and the Softcard in my Apple II still boots, but saying the Xbox 360 is creat hardware is ignoring its alarmingly high death rate.

Still, MS hardware is good. Too bad they insist to be a software company.

It's an interesting alternative to the more conventional tablets coming out next year. Knowing Microsoft they wouldn't actually release this because it might threaten all the Windows licenses they are selling on net books. They wouldn't want to take the risk of creating a new market when there's a chance another company could come along and do it better on a more or less equal playing ground. If this was any other company I'd be excited about this device but I just don't think Microsoft has what it takes from a business perspective to launch a new class of mobile device.

A bit old, no?

Well... We have tablets since the early 90's...

The article :-)

And nothing new about Courier has come since then.

It seems the vapor in the vaporware dispersed.

only 3 months later? I'd give it at least another 3 with no news before calling it "an abandoned line of research".

They will certainly show something (that will never ship) on CES, trying to steal some of Apple's thunder.

It's not a hard device to fake - just glue two 10-inch tablets with a fake interface and off you go. It would be good enough to show on TV.

If I were Jobs, I would not announce a tablet after CES and watch how that confuses Microsoft PR people.

If I were Jobs, I would not announce a tablet after CES and watch how that confuses Microsoft PR people.

Jobs, on the other hand, probably cares more about his own business than about confusing Microsoft PR.

That's why he is Jobs and I am myself ;-)

Apple is in much better hands than mine.

Interesting to see how they were, well let's say inspired, by the Iphone. The pinch thing is the most obvious giveaway.

It's even more interesting to see that they don't get why the Iphone was designed the way it was. It's all about simplicity and form follows function. There's nothing in the iphone's design that doesn't absolutely have to be there. There's no clutter. When you look at the courier it's obvious they haven't grasped this.

"It's all about simplicity and form follows function."

In the demo, there were a lot of actions where I did not understand the underlying UI philosophy. Flicking from one application to another (how are the apps spatially related to each other?). Flicking a person's entry onto a todo list to give him access (why doesn't it email it to him, or some other action?). The "pinch" seems to do different things in different contexts, and I'm not sure what ties them together. I get that she was taking photos at one point, but is holding up a book form factor to take a picture going to work ergonomically? And then pressing the button to snap the photo, do you have to balance this open book form factor with just one hand so you can press the button with your other hand?

On the other hand, during the original iPhone demo, I kept thinking "of course!" It was clear that Apple had created an entire, consistent UI philosophy for operating a mobile device with just the fingers on one hand, while holding it in the other.

I think I remember seeing the pinch gesture (and a few others) in a Perceptive Pixel demo quite a while before the iPhone came out.

I had to love one of the comments from the article:

Glass on glass = Dirt rubbing/scratching madness.

When it's off the screen will look like the back of an iPod Classic.

I do not think that a Microsoft product mockup (or one produced by a company working for MS) would use Google Maps.

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