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back to article iPad's biggest rival? Microsoft's dead Courier

Apple's iPad has been criticized as a super-sized version of the iPhone. While that criticism is mostly correct, it falls short in one key area: it's a heck of a lot easier to input information into an iPhone than into an iPad. The reason? The iPad's virtual keyboard doesn't fit any familiar mode of content creation. The …

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Kidding

You have to be kidding, I didn't see they cancelled the Courier. The demo video I saw for the courier was the one decent thing I thought Microsoft had dredged out of their corporate hole in a good while.

So, obviously, why *wouldn't* they "reconsider" it out of existence?

Just.. you know. Let them sink now. Tablets will find a good data entry mechanism (like two partial keyboards at bottom corners)

I can come up with several ideas.. but then Apple would just patent them.. or MS would turn them into a really bad product and ruin it.. so I'll just keep my mouth shut.

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Stop

Spot on

Plus, I don't think this journo actually uses an iPad or iPhone, but it does make his posts 'appear' to be of interest. Jeez, just write about something interesting that you know about *without* involving an iProduct. Please.

Note to El Reg editor - Consider a £10 tax on each mention of Apple to kick your lazy hacks into thinking before linking BS articles to trendy products?

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Jobs Halo

We need more MS related scintillation

"Note to El Reg editor - Consider a £10 tax on each mention of Apple to kick your lazy hacks into thinking before linking BS articles to trendy products?"

Ballox. The report on Apple because that's where the action is and that's what readers are buying and want to know more about.

Try dishing out a £10 bounty for every scintillating piece about MS. Be sure to set aside, oh, I dunno, £20 for the year?

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The IT journalist's "iPad Year"

Oh dear, here we go. At the start of 2010, the IT journalists were telling us the iPad was a myth - a fairy story that parents tell their children at night, if they don't want them growing up into software managers. Then, throughout much of January and February, they told us that - yes, the iPad did exist - but it would be a flop. From about April onwards, neither of these things were true, and so they retreated into telling us that "consumers are all cunts, who like the wrong things."

Very enlightening.

I suppose it's a sort of existential angst at the thought of a world they used to be able to predict and control, slipping out of their grasp? Suddenly, the IT world is starting to be about things like Stephen Fry, and Facebook, and iPads - and all that other stuff, that they think people shouldn't be interested in.

Ten years ago, it was all so different. They could force their friends and relatives into buying a nice sit-up-and-beg tower PC, with nice copy of Microsoft Office on it (because you never know, auntie might want to convert her cooking recipes into a spreadsheet application, and you wouldn't want to get left behind, as the rest of the world puts their telephone contacts into an Access database). They could force these decisions on people, because "they knew best".

Now, they go around their relatives houses and start telling them to "stop liking Stephen Fry", or "stop using Wikipedia", and the relatives just crack open the whiskey and try to find a quiet corner to stick "Mad uncle Matthew" in, until he either shuts up, or falls into a coma.

Listen Matt, just because these things baffle me, doesn't mean I want to read anything you have to write about them - because they clearly baffle you, too. Have a big cup of Shut The Fuck Up, and find a nice corner to pass out in without wetting the carpet, will ya?

The answer to the iPad is NOT a laptop with a glass keyboard - especially not, if your reason is that "it's kind of like an ordinary laptop; only more expensive, and with a glass keyboard".

Yes, the iPad is clearly wrong, because it has nowhere to put the 80-column paper cards in. Who'd buy a computer without a paper card reader? Consumers are clearly all cunts: it's the only explanation. Have another whiskey.

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yup

good luck with that!

You'll need it.

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Anonymous Coward

Blackberry vs iPhone

"The Blackberry taught a generation to "two-thumb" text into a device, which the iPhone mimics on its virtual keyboard."

One has to wonder whether the author of this article has ever used an iPhone. Being tall and skinny its form-factor is *all* wrong for two-thumb texting. Instead it's most definitely a "hold in one hand, finger type with the other" kind of device.

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Stop

You're doing it wrong.

If the iPhone's touch keyboard is too skinny for you, try turning it 90 degrees.

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You're doing it wrong

If you turn it 90 degrees you then lose any useful screen real estate you actually had with the keyboard visible in the first place.

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if only

it was the only tablet-format device that I genuinely lusted after. And then Ballmer killed it.

Oh well.

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Price/Performance

The Courier as originally spec'ed would be well over a thousand dollars compared to the iPad's $500. Apple gets phenomenal economies of scale, especially now that they have a supply chain set up for 9" tablets. You can also share all the iPhone and iPod Touch software with the iPad (most apps are Retina display enabled, and they display at near-full resolution on the iPad in 2x mode.)

Besides, the iPad isn't nearly as hard to type on as the article implies. You can almost touch-type with the large 9" screen and auto-correction. It's not like it's one of those 7" devices which would be impossible to do so on.

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Courier

I'm an Apply kinda a guy (but one that doesn't get first gen stuff - I'm waiting for iPad 2 and iPhone 5 before jumping in that area). But heck, the Courier looked freakin awesome. If it had come out actually working like the demo I would have bought one in a snap - even a first gen version.

Silly silly boys. Would have been a game changer. (Still) makes everything to date (incl Apple) look terribly stale.

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Thumb Down

first gen - apple iphone 5???

whatever about the ipad, waiting until the fifth iteration of the iphone before considering it stable / mature enough to merit your approval means you must be getting ready to purchase one of Henry Fords more recent variants of the Model T any century now

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@Dr Bob

I think the implication was that the iPhone 4 is such a redesign, it can be considered a gen 1 device. I'm sorta in agreement.

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Missed the boat

The iPhone 3GS was the one to get. The 4 has issues and who knows about the 5. In the mean time you've potentially lost all that utility of owning one - bullshit economic term but presumably you see some in it or you wouldn't consider owning one.

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Black Helicopters

Re: Courier

"But heck, the Courier looked freakin awesome. If it had come out actually working like the demo I would have bought one in a snap - even a first gen version."

You are closing in on it. It's not "if *it* had come out with a working version," creating something that works would fall on Microsoft, and it is becoming a reasonable question to ask whether they are up to it? Seriously. I looked carefully for anything that looked like something that actually ran on the device, and never found it. Pure Vaporware.

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Define "issues"

They run the exact same OS (aside the front facing camera support). the anteannagate "issue" is nothing more than troll fodder, and it was scientifically proven (by multiple independent cell phone review companies, plus anandtech, teccrunch, and several others) that the iP4, even when held "wrong" still had better signal strength than the 3GS at its best, or any competing Android device. The other minor hardware issues were solved (fast).

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Headmaster

All that assumes

that MS actually got the thing to actually, you know, WORK, with acceptable performance levels of course.

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And if pigs could fly....only one problem…Reality

The only problem with your hope is that MS's Courier was a complete figment of MS's imagination with absolutely no bearing on what was feasible with MS software, MS's OS or the Intel chip architecture they are locked into. And of course, now they also have to have a 10 hour battery life and start at $500 to compete with the iPad.

MS and Intel completely dropped the ball and never addressed the central problems of their slate strategy over the past decade--weight, OS power-management, battery life, creating thoroughly slate-based OS/apps and of course, price. They just assumed users would never leave them for mobile devices not based or tied to Windows, Intel and/or Office.

Now MS and Intel will never catch up in the slate market. All the OEMs are enamored with either Android or their own home-brew OSes and don't give a flying rip.

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Headmaster

Hold on...

"The only problem with your hope is that MS's Courier was a complete figment of MS's imagination"

So was Kinect not so long ago. And it was widely regarded as impossible given "MS Software, MS's OS", etc. And yet, here it is.

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Well, quite

A bit of folded cardboard and some computer annimations are a long way from a real product.

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Kinect was no figment

It was an R&D project 5 years in the making, and a completely viable system. The $150 in hardware cost about $30 in parts, and the software is just that, software. it was all very real and very feasible, it just took a long time to develop, then get in the hands of devs to make some games.

The Courier, no way could they put a bloated desktop OS which now lacks the Tablet centric UI features XP tablet edition did have, on x64 hardware with a battery life users expect and with snap and pop they're used to. A netbook class system simply wasn't going to cut it (especialyl crippled to 600 vertical lines), and the Windows Kernel has no sleep state that allows for continued processing like mobile OS do (the iPad gets alerts and e-mails even when "off.")

Windows simply takes WAY too much horsepower (and storage). iOS takes less than 2GB, everything inclusive to run the OS. Win7 install is 5 times that, and that's before it creates 20-40GB of log data, temp files, snapshots and more. a 64GB partition is the minimum for Win7 to reliably operate, inclusive of not less than 30% free space to avoid fragmentation, but iOS is happy in 8GB, and a 32GB iOS system will technically have more available user space than a 64GB Windows drive. Oh, and then there's the I/O limitations...

Even low end (celeron based) PC tablets have been hovering over $1K for years. They just can't make them much cheaper. Also, those intel chips need a heck of a lot more cooling than ARMs do, meaning thicker cases. It just doesn;t work, There must be a custom windows OS to compete with the IPad, a Win7 version of Windows CE. rumor is we'll see one at CES.

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FAIL

Kinect a figment?

I recall it was a wholly real technology that was demo'd by the Israeli firm who developed it which was subsequently purchased by MS in the same fashion that MS "invents" all their decent tech

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Paris Hilton

Wait

Did I understand this correctly? The author suggests it would be better to replace input via the touch keyboard with a stylus and (ficticious) handwriting recognition? It's 2011, give or take a year, right?

And this would somehow be better for content creation?

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FAIL

Yes.

You may be surprised, but the Palm Graffiti handwriting system was very good. And worked on a 3 inch screen perfectly well without needing a big keyboard area. Took about a day or two to learn, but once done, it was as quick as hand writing, and did not require you to look at what you were writing. I still don't know why it hasn't been taken up by Android.

Personally, I'd be quite happy with a stylus enabled Android PDA and some variation on Graffiti. .

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Dead right

Maybe we should create an app for that ;-)

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huh?

palm graphiti didn't work on the screen for years, it worked in a dedicated area where a keyboard would otherwise be... and it didn't work that well unless you had impeccable handwriting skills, where the Apple Newton that pre-dated it by years worked across the whole screen, in multiple languages, standard and cursive writing, and had a learning engine too.

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Troll

Copy that

The original Graffiti was actually great, despite being a bit counter-intuitive at first. Then the lawyers got involved. Graffiti II, which replaced it, OTOH, had major issues, as did the "jot" alternative, in my experience.

So that's something else to be considered here, what innovation can actually be rolled out into a workable tablet product w/out first paying off all the patent trolls.

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Content creation???

The author of this article must be fairly late into the computer world. Microsoft has never been known for it's content creation. On the whole, virtually all of MS's offerings have been copied from earlier works. And that includes all of the Office suite. Their strong point is waiting until the product is fully developed and the market established and then wading in with a mass appeal to the corporate market. The areas where MS has conspicuously failed have been areas where they tried to lead the development.

Blackberry may well have taught a generation 'thumb typing' but an earlier generation learned the art on the Psion 3 series of machines (and I was one of them)

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Boffin

Umm...late yourself?

It is pretty industry standard terminology - "content creation" means the apps that USERS use to created computer content - documents, drawings, spreadsheets, computer-generated music, presentations, web pages, writing computer programs even. Stuff that MS Office, MS programming languages, MS web development tools, and other MS apps have historically done very, very well. In fact, the majority of user-generated computer documents worldwide has probably been created with Microsoft software, especially Office.

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Pirate

GR has a point

in that MS usually doesn't enter a market until others have tested the waters first. There have been a few positive exceptions, though, namely the old VisualBasic stuff. Drag and drop GUI creation was an awesome ability 15-18 years ago when you looked at the alternative of coding Windows 3.x with the C++ libraries. nasty.

But heck, MSOffice was a reaction to the popularity of WordPerfect and Lotus 123, although maybe the Great Evil known as PowerPoint should be credited as a MS "invention". And in its early years, MS Office just wasn't that great, especially compared to the more refined WP and 123. Not sure what you mean by "MS web development tools" - FrontPage/Sharepoint? Certainly hope not.

And I wouldn't say that any MS apps have done this content creation "very, very well". They've done it at a minimally acceptable level, but are widely installed, so are widely used. But to say they do it "very, very well" is an overstatement.

I'd think Adobe might have more "user-generated computer documents" than MS, especially on the Web. But including all the office docs that sit on file servers inaccessible to the Internet, you're probably right.

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Bronze badge

It's not about the copying...

The point is, whether MS copies or not is inconsequential - GR was taking "content creation" to mean the actual building of the tools. But it is NOT - it is the users using the tools to actually create docs and files. And that is the whole point - he is definitionally incorrect.

Sure, MS copies, and often poorly. But that is not the point of the article.

Why is MS so popular for content creation? Because way back in the day, WordPerfect blew the transition to a GUI environment pretty badly, as did WordStar (which had been my favourite due to my extensive Borland Turbo Pascal programming, and use of WS under CP/M on Z-80 machines). So the reason for MS being "widely installed" is simply put because they were the first content creation programs that really used a GUI well - a feat MS pulled off by developing them FIRSTLY for the new Macintosh, THEN developing them for Windows. At the time they dropped, NOTHING on the market was close to them in ease of use - in the computer labs I taught in then, nearly everyone abandoned Symphony and 1-2-3 within the first year of getting Macs with Excel and Word. I'd call that doing it "very, very well".

Ironically, your one positive MS example is actually a BLATANT example of something MS copied - VB was a direct rip-off of a coding environment called PowerBuilder, since bought by Sybase, and very, very popular with corporate developers circa 1990. I know it too well...spent 2 years using it on projects at the time...

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Pirate

@Robert

Hail and well met, fellow TP hacker. Not many of us around anymore.

If you take away my VB example, I'm at a loss to think of anything major that MS didn't either copy or buy. MSBob, maybe? Or maybe some of their older compilers. GWBASIC? I guess they did used to have that encyclopedia thing, but that wasn't really for content creation.

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Unable to type on iPad ?

I own an iPad since last June and I type in at about 80% of my speed on a normal keyboard, which is largely sufficient for note typing : there really is no problem with using the virtual keyboard of an iPad, as long as it is in horizontal mode. Oh, and by the way, my job is with using heavily keyboards, as I am a journalist ;)

Well, there is just one thing which is wrong with the iPad (and iPhone with it) : accentuated letters. But as a British/US writer, that is an unknown problem for you...

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@accented characters

Of course you can typed accented characters on an iPad ... here are some examples ... éëöôå ... typed on an iPad B-)

Just hold down the character and choose the accent from a popup menu.

Although hover typing might be what novices do on an iPad or even so called open source bloggers, it is certainly easy to touch type on the iPad.

Whilst the courier was a nice mockup .. that is all it currently is .. bit like the Apple Knowledge Navigator / Future Shock videos of the late 80's.

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Åccéntēd Lëttêrs? Nó Prøblëm!

If you hold down the key of the accented letter you need on the iPad virtual keyboard, it will produce extra virtual keys on the screen, with the accent you need--e.g., è, ê, é, ë, and so forth (even fœrth). But you have to keep your finger pressed to the screen and slide it to the accented letter you want. (I think this is terribly cool, but I should probably get out møre.)

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Courier never existed

Courier no more corresponded to the real world than the film the Matrix.

The reason iPad looks dull by comparison is that Apple spent a decade figuring out what could be done in the real world. That's also why it is so successful.

Microsoft simply didn't do the work.

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Joke

RE: Courier never existed

"Courier no more corresponded to the real world than the film the Matrix."

Come on, admit it, The Matrix could actually be real!

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a winner and they didnt know it.

the guys making pads seem so obsessed over the 7" vs 9" vs 12" etc thing they have all missed an(to me anyway) obvios trick.

why comprimise and have EITHER a large non pocktable device OR a tiny screen when you CAN HAVE BOTH!

fold the bloody thing in half!

im sure super amoled screens are edgless now, or they could be made so on one side at least. then when folded out they would(all for a nigh invisable split down the screen) be a screen twice the size.

ms were going along that track

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FAIL

Nope

MS has been struggling in the mobile arena since Windows CE - which was awful. May be time to quite that market altogether.

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IT Angle

With the amount of cash

you'd think MS would easily design something that works and beat anything Apple or Google can offer. But they still cannot have their own idea. Copy/buy someone else' idea is all they can do.

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FAIL

Useful tablet computers

Tablets work best when you can write on them. Unfortunately at the moment the screen hardware on available tablets isn't up to scratch. And, like voice recognition, the software stack is unable to cope with the wide variety of divergent styles. The OCR have to work at greater than 99% efficiency, and the operating system must store and associate the raw input data on every level for when the OCR fails. We would still be using newton (successors) if these problems had been solved already.

When someone gets this right, will we even notice? The tablet niche is a toy at the moment, little better than a oversized iPod.

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FAIL

Fail

That is possibly the most obtuse, narrow minded and backwards looking comment I've read in a long time.

You might have noticed an slight reduction in the use of handwriting over the last 30 years. You might have also noticed a recent sweeping trend towards portable devices and touch based input. If you look really, really carefully, you may have noticed a certain company selling millions of devices featuring both of these characteristics and a whole suit of other companies desperately try to copy it. If you were to go out on a limb, you might even go so far as to make a Star Trek reference and a prediction based on speech input... but let's not blow any fuses just yet.

Probably best you just board up your windows and continue to sit in a dark room with a bag over your head.

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To true

I have an HTC Desire (and like it very much), but the one thing I miss from the old Palm Tungsten T3 is the stylus which allowed me to write (OK Graffiti, but it was easy to learn). Real handwriting recognition is the key to fast input.

When needing something portable to do some writing for a project proposal (during the family holidays) I got myself a new notepad (A4, hardcover, EUR 4.95). Startup-time: zero, battery life infinity, all math fonts available ;-), not nearly as invasive into the holiday atmosphere as the 13.3" laptop, storage space: limited but sufficient. Writing is so much faster than typing. I did have to copy it all over to my desktop machine manually, but I could do that at my leisure on return from vacation.

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Pirate

you forgot

two important advantages your paper pad has over an electronic pad -

1. no software/firmware upgrades are needed. ever.

2. in 100 years somebody could pick up your notepad and read what you wrote last week. That probably won't be possible with an electronic device in 100 years.

PAPER! It's not just for wiping anymore.

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Typing

iPad is not like an iPhone because of the ability to touch type.

I can touch type not v fast but decently. Yes, improvements are needed but it's a beginning.

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no-touch typing

How can you touch type on a picture of a keyboard, where you have to hover over the keys instead of resting your fingers on the home row, and need to keep looking at your fingers to make sure you haven't drifted away from the keys?

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no issue for me

initially, yes, i drifted a bit, but during my week long extensive review of the iPad, I typed more than 10K words on it. After a few days, "hovering" was precise, and with the keyboard and screen in such close proximity, I found i could keep centered simply using peripheral vision without concentration. After all, your fingertips and the text you;re typing are only a few inches apart...

When at home, i used a rolled towel as a wrist wrest, and that made things even easier, though i probably would have acquires a $30 BT keyboard and used that for extended tying if I kept the iPad. (it was only on load for the review).

I type about 85WPM on full keyed keyboards, about 65WPM on laptop keyboards, 60 on iPad, and about 45 on non-standard keyboards (most netbooks), and barely 30 on phones (and faster on the iPhone than anything else I've used). With continued practice, i could probably hit 80 or 85WPM on the iPad once i learn to trust the predictive typing system and memorize the most common defaults (I'de love to see that ported from phones to desktop publishing and productivity apps!), allowing me to type as many as 1/3rd less letters.

It in no way "pained" me to type on the iPad. Yes, there was a slight adjustment. hell, It took me a good week to adjust from my old work laptop to the new one, and I still fumble keys switching between the work and home systems. I've occasionally been tempted to just carry my Logitech BT keyboard with me everywhere and use it as my only keyboard so i can stop switching all the time. Was the iPad learning curve better or worse than any other? a bit slower on the uptake, but I think if I had another week, I'd have been just as fast.

I'de like to see a "split" keyboard option perhaps, putting a small "right thunb" and "left thumb" versions of the iPhone keyboard split and put on opposing sides of the screen for thumb typing, but that's only helpful times when i can't actually put the iPad on a table or lap to type (and it;s better on a table than a lap, but the same EASILY applies to notebooks too).

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FAIL

Atrocious article.

The premises are all wrong, from the notion that it's easier to type with two thumbs than ten fingers to the notion that Courier was ever anything more than a concept video.

The fact that all we have of the device is a few minutes of CG strongly suggests that there were some serious design problems. You really think MS would just shrug and say, "Sure, we have the perfect iPad killer, but I don't see why we should spend the money to develop it?"

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So?

If it is that good, add a second free standing screen to an existing pad, using bluetooth 3 for example.

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Gates Halo

pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease

I was so hoping to see the Courier released. It looks like it would be exactly what I want. Stick 3G in it, and it would be fantastic. Just the headline to this article got my hopes up.

Microsoft - GIVE US THE COURIER!

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