Microsoft axed Courier tablet in favor of 'Windows Everywhere' strategy - report

Posted:
in iPad edited January 2014
Software giant Microsoft scrapped the Courier tablet project last year because the device diverged from its strategy of bringing Windows everywhere without compromise, a new report claims.



Don't shoot the Courier



With the Redmond, Wash. Windows maker, hard at work on both a slate computer in partnership with HP and a dual-screen Courier concept, Apple threw down the gauntlet by announcing the iPad in January of last year.



But, for Steve Ballmer, the company's CEO, it was competition between Microsoft's own executives, who disagreed on the future of tablet computing, that troubled him, rather than external competition from Apple, CNET's Jay Greene reported after interviewing 18 former and current Microsoft executives. The Courier team's lofty goals clashed with those of Steven Sinofsky, the company's Windows chief.



In light of the conflict, Ballmer reportedly had trouble deciding whether to allow the Courier team to continue and turned to Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates for help.



Gates set up a meeting with J Allard, the mastermind behind the project, and then Entertainment and Devices division President Robbie Bach, as well as two other Courier team members. According to Greene, Gates asked Allard how users would access email on the tablet. Allard reportedly told the Microsoft chairman that the team wasn't interested in building "another email experience," and that they viewed the device as focused on content creation.



"This is where Bill had an allergic reaction," a source told Greene. Gates then grilled Allard on the lack of Exchange and Outlook support, two of the company's most profitable products.



Shortly after the meeting, Courier was cancelled because it strayed too far from Microsoft's Windows and Office franchise, sources told CNET.







"A few months after that, both Allard and Bach announced plans to leave Microsoft, though both executives have said their decisions to move on were unrelated to the Courier cancellation," Greene wrote.



After a leak of the device in late 2009, the Courier concept generated a significant amount of hype among interested consumers. But, in April 2010, Microsoft VP of corporate communications Frank Shaw issued a statement putting to rest rumors surrounding the project.



"At any given time, across any of our business groups, there are new ideas being investigated, tested, and incubated," he said. "It's in Microsoft's DNA to continually develop and incubate new technologies to foster productivity and creativity. The 'Courier' project is an example of this type of effort and its technologies will be evaluated for use in future Microsoft offerings, but we have no plans to build such a device at this time."



But, tipsters told the publication that development of the Courier was further along than just a concept.







"There was extensive work done on the business, the technology and the experience," a member of the Courier team told Greene. "It was very complete, not a whim."



The team reportedly drew inspiration from the popular Moleskine brand of notebooks approached the device with a mission of "Free Create." The Courier operating system was based on Windows, but used a completely new interface.



According to Greene, "there was not a single prototype that contained all of the attributes of the vision: the industrial design, the screen performance, the software experience, the correct weight, and the battery life," when the project was cancelled.



"Those prototypes wouldn't have come together into a single unit until very late in the development process, perhaps weeks before manufacturing," he said, adding that the team was confident it was "moving quickly toward" a final prototype.



But Allard, who was known for being an iconoclast at Microsoft, even bucking company culture to use Apple products such as the iPod or the Mac, may have been ahead of his time with the Courier. He was seeking to develop new markets, rather than preserve Microsoft's operating system and productivity suite monopolies.



He was "incubating with his tribe, very much thinking consumer and very much thinking the next few years," said a former Microsoft executive. "He was trying to disrupt Microsoft, which hasn't been good at consumer products."



After Courier



Microsoft went on to finish its Slate PC in late 2010, but the device was released directly to business customers and failed to gain traction.



The company is now putting its efforts into a "no compromise" tablet initiative for Windows 8 devices using an interface dubbed Metro. Tablets based on the ARM architecture are also planned, though traditional x86 applications will not run on Windows 8 ARM devices.



In September, Microsoft distributed Windows 8 tablet prototypes built by Samsung to its developers. The "pre-beta" device features a 1.6 GHz processor and 11.6-inch screen. Windows 8 is set to arrive sometime next year.







But, by 2012, Apple will have had a dominant 2 year head start in the tablet market. Research group Gartner expects Microsoft to sell just 4.34 million tablets in 2012, compared to Apple's projected 69 million. The iPad maker sold a record 11.12 million tablets in the most recent September quarter.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 52
    Sounds like Courier stepped over the "post PC" line, so they killed it. Windows Everywhere = PC everywhere.
  • Reply 2 of 52
    I dunno, maybe the fact that the courier had two 10" displays putting the cost of the courier into the stratosphere of tablets might have had something to do with it getting the axe as well?
  • Reply 3 of 52
    jd_in_sbjd_in_sb Posts: 1,481member
    "Windows everywhere without compromise" is Microsoft's slogan yet Windows 8 tablets based on the ARM architecture will not run traditional x86 applications. It's time to ditch the slogan.
  • Reply 4 of 52
    I'm sure "Everywhere" includes "The Dumpster"
  • Reply 5 of 52
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,195member
    someone must have shown this to Bill



    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bjve67p33E
  • Reply 6 of 52
    Further proof that Ballmer's in way over his head. He had to go crying to Uncle Bill to help settle the dispute.



    Way to run that company Steve-o!
  • Reply 7 of 52
    normmnormm Posts: 524member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mac.World View Post


    I dunno, maybe the fact that the courier had two 10" displays putting the cost of the courier into the stratosphere of tablets might have had something to do with it getting the axe as well?



    Two seven inch displays in the CNET article.
  • Reply 8 of 52
    Windows everywhere? What?



    The entire article is wrong.



    It was cancelled because it didn't align with current Microsoft and Office products. It also didn't have an email client.
  • Reply 9 of 52
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by MaroonMushroom View Post


    Windows everywhere? What?



    The entire article is wrong.



    It was cancelled because it didn't align with current Microsoft and Office products. It also didn't have an email client.



    Also, it wasn't nanoprobe-compatible.
  • Reply 10 of 52
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mac.World View Post


    I dunno, maybe the fact that the courier had two 10" displays putting the cost of the courier into the stratosphere of tablets might have had something to do with it getting the axe as well?



    Absolutely! What a ridiculous idea. Totally out of touch with the target market.
  • Reply 11 of 52
    ihxoihxo Posts: 562member
    Problem with the courier is, it's a product by itself, not a platform.



    It's a scrapbook reimagined. It should just be an app.
  • Reply 12 of 52
    I smell cow sh**!

    There was no way in hell the technology was in place to create that courier in all its conceptual glory.

    MS is, IMHO, very worried about the ipad killing the need for people to want a full fledge pc. Think about it. The ipad incorporates all the basic stuff the average person does on a pc but that stuff is packaged up in a neat, responsive unit. The screen is awesome as well as the underlying software. No viruses, no pop ups.... Nothing!
  • Reply 13 of 52
    nvidia2008nvidia2008 Posts: 9,262member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Psych_guy View Post


    Further proof that Ballmer's in way over his head. He had to go crying to Uncle Bill to help settle the dispute.



    Way to run that company Steve-o!



    It's hilarious. The only thing enticing about Microsoft is the Xbox360, and even then it's far from perfect, and 5 year-old technology.



    While Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer are still calling the shots, they will continue to just coast on Windows7, Office and Xbox. Everything else is a mess.
  • Reply 14 of 52
    nvidia2008nvidia2008 Posts: 9,262member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by monstrosity View Post


    Absolutely! What a ridiculous idea. Totally out of touch with the target market.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by NormM View Post


    Two seven inch displays in the CNET article.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mac.World View Post


    I dunno, maybe the fact that the courier had two 10" displays putting the cost of the courier into the stratosphere of tablets might have had something to do with it getting the axe as well?



    Within the next five years from now, a "laptop" with two 10" or so screens ala Courier will be the hottest product out there.



    What's better than an iPad? Two of them, hinged in the middle.



    Cost? Easy peasy. An iPad starts at $499, a MacBook Air $999.



    Even if you took two entire iPads and just glued them together with a hinge That's less than the cost of a MacBook Air.



    By the end of 2012, the "Apple Courier" would be entirely possible at a $699 price point.



    Guess what Apple can do best? Turn this stuff into a real thing you'd want to use.



    And they've got the software to drive it. Hybrid iOS/OSX.







  • Reply 15 of 52
    8002580025 Posts: 172member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ranReloaded View Post


    I'm sure "Everywhere" includes "The Dumpster"



    Better for all if "Windows Nowhere" was adopted.
  • Reply 16 of 52
    anonymouseanonymouse Posts: 6,558member
    Quote:

    Gates set up a meeting with J Allard, the mastermind behind the project, and then Entertainment and Devices division President Robbie Bach, as well as two other Courier team members. According to Greene, Gates asked Allard how users would access email on the tablet. Allard reportedly told the Microsoft chairman that the team wasn't interested in building "another email experience," and that they viewed the device as focused on content creation.



    "This is where Bill had an allergic reaction," a source told Greene. Gates then grilled Allard on the lack of Exchange and Outlook support, two of the company's most profitable products.



    This part of the story just seems weird (even weirder than the prototype bullshit). I dont know which way of looking at this is more bizarre, that the fate of Courier was irrationally decided based on the fact that there wasn't an email client written yet, or that the team working on it was so out of touch with reality that they didn't think people would want to be able to check their email on a tablet.



    Looked at the first way, Gates is just completely stupid. In the second interpretation, Allard was just lost in some divorced from reality view of his own alternate tablet universe. But the strangest thing is that the story, as reported, seems to actually support both of those things as the case.



    Probably the right decision, though, since no one seemed to know what they were doing. Kind of emblematic for Microsoft over the last 10 years.
  • Reply 17 of 52
    d-ranged-range Posts: 396member
    This 'Windows Everywhere' strategy is going to kill Microsoft some day, if they don't start to realize fast that the world is moving away from Windows at breakneck speed. In the consumer space everything is going mobile, and in the business space web-based and cloud-based solutions are slowely but surely becoming viable alternatives to your typical Windows client with Office on it. And it's not just that, the incentive for companies to keep upgrading their hardware and software every 2 or three years is becoming smaller and smaller. Where I work (6000+ employees) everyone is still on Windows XP with Office 2008, and many are still working on 4 or 5 year old laptops. Not because they cannot get a newer machine, but because the old one fits their use case perfectly, and is still more than powerful enough to create some powerpoints or excel sheets.



    Microsoft has missed the boat, but they still don't realize it. It's almost tragic to see them struggle.
  • Reply 18 of 52
    freerangefreerange Posts: 1,584member
    A perfect example of why Microsucks is such a joke and incapable of innovating. Building "third rate", buggy, bloated, over-priced products is their life.
  • Reply 19 of 52
    Microsoft wouldn't know innovation if it were being held in their hands.
  • Reply 20 of 52
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by FreeRange View Post


    A perfect example of why Microsucks is such a joke and incapable of innovating. Building "third rate", buggy, bloated, over-priced products is their life.



    If you had actually used Microsoft's latest products (like Windows 7, Office 2010 and Windows Phone 7.5) you wouldn't be saying this.



    Quote:

    In the consumer space everything is going mobile, and in the business space web-based and cloud-based solutions are slowely but surely becoming viable alternatives to your typical Windows client with Office on it.



    Right, that's why Microsoft provides a web interface for Office and offers syncing of documents across all devices (desktop, laptop and phone, soon tablet as well). Remind me again how I get to the web interface where I can edit my iWork documents from iCloud?



    Quote:

    everyone is still on Windows XP with Office 2008



    Office 2008 is available for Mac OS only.



    Quote:

    and many are still working on 4 or 5 year old laptops. Not because they cannot get a newer machine, but because the old one fits their use case perfectly, and is still more than powerful enough to create some powerpoints or excel sheets.



    Surely this is also something that will affect Apple as well? The current products are good enough, so why upgrade?
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