Portable computing, including tablet PCs, has been the hot topic since Apple’s unveiling of the iPad in January. While the iPad has gained a lot of press and generated conversation about its intended audience and potential use, other tablet devices have been overlooked. Microsoft’s Courier is one such device. Courier—the soon-to-be production version of the Codex, a rumored tablet device widely discussed in 2009—provides a tablet platform for the student, techie, and slide-show-loving grandparent alike.
So why should this matter when the iPad has made it clear they intend to be the everyman’s casual Internet device? In reading the commentary on the device there is much being said about who the device is not for. It is not for the techie. It is barely for the student. The device’s lacks the processing power or input devices for programming or graphics editing. No cameras or stylus limits the device’s use as a social and note-taking tool. The iPad is intended for the non-techie to surf the internet, read eBooks, and share basic media with friends and family.
This is where Courier steps in. Rumored to have built in camera(s) and stylus input, the device features two seven inch touchscreen monitors, making it the techie and student’s dream. Connected through a WiFi or possibly 3G network, the device can be used to coordinate chats multiple devices. The dual screen offers opportunities to have a personal and shared workspace during a chat, during which documents can be transferred from one screen to another for collaborative work. With its stylus, it’s possible to take notes with simple handwriting recognition and to track which user is performing what action on a screen.
The Courier is not the cure all, though. In their demo video, Microsoft leans too heavily on physical metaphors. Needing to flip over a picture to view the notes is a cumbersome and unnecessarily literal translation from the physical world. Tack on excessive animations and the device becomes more of a showpiece than a utility. This is, of course, a demo to show the device’s potential—but, like Apple with the iPad, I think Microsoft is selling itself short on the device’s potential.
Imagine having a Courier or iPad next to the door in every room in your home. Connect it through the WiFi to the HVAC, lighting, and entertainment systems and you have an integrated smart home. Want to change the lighting or turn the heat on? Dont get up. Forgot to preheat the oven? Set the temperature from your living room without having to pause the YouTube video you’re watching.
As mobile devices become more powerful, a shift is occurring as manufacturers look at how they can apply this mobile technology in our everyday home-life. The iPad and Courier are just two devices that show the possibilities of a computer not limited to the desk or lap—a mobile device not constrained by our mental models of phones, PDAs, or portable devices.
Header image via gizmodo