About a year and a half back, Microsoft’s Courier Tablet concept was still on the Industry’s radar as Microsoft’s answer to the iPad. It was a two-screen device where the screens were joined along one edge and folded together like a book. The project was dropped rather unceremoniously and it seems like this premature death was caused by none other than Windows 8, with some help from Bill Gates.
In an interview of several unnamed executives of Microsoft, CNET’s Jay Greene has revealed the Courier project had come to a crossroads quite some time back. CEO Steve Ballmer had to make the tough decision of whether to keep the Courier or to wait for the Windows team to come up with something that can run smoothly on a tablet.
The Courier project was headed by the same person who developed and pushed Xbox — J Allard. He saw courier as the companion device for PC’s and smartphones. Courier was much closer to completion and a Windows alternative was still far away at that point.
Ballmer went to Founder and former CEO Bill Gates for advice. Gates now started considering the situation and found a major flaw (according to him anyway) in the Courier — it did not support Outlook and Exchange. It instead pulled everything through the browser. The problem with that was that it did not integrate the tablet within the existing scheme of things. For Xbox that was alright because it anyway does not have to connect to Microsoft’s more business oriented products like the Office. But for a companion device, that integration was important. Allard’s plan however was not to create a replacement but a companion that was focussed on focused on content creation. Gates of course saw things differently.
Weeks after this incident the Courier project was cancelled and all efforts were redirected to Windows 8 — headed by none other than Steven Sinofsky. Now that the world is clearly in a post-pc mood — Windows 8 perhaps makes more sense than the Courier. But we can’t help but wonder how the Courier would have been as a separate but complimentary platform.