Bill Gates had a helping hand in ending Microsoft’s Courier project, according to former Microsoft executives.
Microsoft’s Courier promised a new innovative tablet concept using both touch and pen computing. The project was a new tablet concept that had promised to combine a dual screen book design with finger and stylus input. Various promotional materials leaked in late 2009 that demonstrated a number of concepts that would have brought an unparalleled productivity tool to the market. Microsoft’s Research team had reached a concept stage but Microsoft was never planning to manufacture the device.
A new inside story on Microsoft’s Courier device delves deep into why the Courier project was canned. CNET tells the story of how J Allard, a former Microsoft executive who worked on the Xbox vision, and Microsoft’s Windows chief, Steven Sinofsky, did not meet eye-to-eye on the future of Microsoft’s tablet strategy. Allard created the Courier concept and Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices division President Robbie Bach was in charge of the overall project. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had a difficult choice to make for the Courier, keep it or can it. CNET reports that he arranged for the Courier team to meet with Bill Gates to discuss their project. Gates wasn’t keen on the experience due to the fact it wasn’t intended to be a computer replacement and had no functional email client. Allard’s team argued that the Courier was a content creation device. “This is where Bill had an allergic reaction,” said one Courier worker who spoke with an individual present at the meeting.
Microsoft killed the project several weeks later and a few months later both Allard and Bach announced their plans to leave Microsoft. Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s chief communcations lead issued a statement on the Courier’s death last year. “At any given time, we’re looking at new ideas, investigating, testing, incubating them,” said Shaw in a statement following leaked details that Microsoft had killed the project. “It’s in our DNA to develop new form factors and natural user interfaces to foster productivity and creativity. The Courier project is an example of this type of effort. It will be evaluated for use in future offerings, but we have no plans to build such a device at this time.”
Microsoft has showed off a number of Courier-like pen and touch computing concepts since the death of the device. Microsoft’s research teams released a video concept of how they are investigating the use and integration of pen and touch. Microsoft’s Windows 8 work also includes support for pen and touch computing, something that Microsoft will likely push in the beta version of the product. For now though, the Courier is dead and it appears that any work Microsoft’s teams put into the project will now filter over to the core Windows operating system.
Be sure to check-out the full story on Microsoft’s Courier death by Jay Greene at CNET News.com. It’s an interesting and unique insight into one of Microsoft’s highly anticipated projects.
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