Microsoft’s Courier project died in no small part because Bill Gates feared it would cost the company in Outlook sales, despite the content-creation device being only months from a potential launch. According to new leaks about the dual-screen tablet, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer called company founder Gates in to meet with the Windows 8 and Courier teams, to help decide which of the two competing tablet strategies would be pursued. Gates, always a fan of anything that supported Microsot’s Exchange/Windows app ecosystem, grew wary of Courier project lead J Allard’s apparent unconcern with the status quo, CNET reports, and recommended to Ballmer that Windows 8 form the centerpiece of the tablet drive.
In Allard’s vision, Courier owners would have a smartphone or other device to check email – Courier would support web-based accounts through the browser, but not the company’s Outlook software – and use the dual-display clamshell tablet to take notes, sketch out ideas and generally brainstorm. Although based on Windows at its core, the OS would have been stripped down to basics, removing the familiar UI and streamlining what remained so as to be swift and responsive to pen and touch input.
That didn’t sit well with the competing tablet strategy within Microsoft, based on Windows 8 and capable of running all the apps a regular PC might. As we saw in our own Windows 8 tablet preview, Microsoft has done a decent job in making the Start UI finger-friendly, but Courier would’ve been a step or two beyond that.
“It was not off-the-shelf tech … There is no commercial product today that meets the specs we had for it. It was highly demanding and innovative and no one partner had all of the pieces” Anonymous Courier team member
In the end, despite the Courier team already planning brand strategy, marketing and other pre-launch details, and having the various hardware details – including custom kit from manufacturers like Samsung – all operating on different prototypes, Microsoft pulled the plug. Instead, the company will come late to the tablet market with Windows 8, though OEM partners are already preparing: ASUS documents spotted earlier this week confirm the company intends two flagship Windows 8 tablets in Q3 2012.