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Microsoft's dual-screen Courier e-Book reader/journal device reportedly will wage war with Apple's iPad late this year.  (Source: Engadget)

The device is reportedly powered by NVIDIA's Tegra 2 and includes a camera.  (Source: Engadget)

The device will use the same OS code base used by the Zune HD and Windows Mobile 7 operating systems.  (Source: Engadget)
Details on the upcoming portable e-book reader/journal device leak

It may be a battle of the tablets when two of the electronics industry's biggest stars -- Microsoft and Apple -- go head to head with competing tablet designs later this year.  According to Engadget,whose sources were some of the first to leak details on Microsoft's upcoming Courier tablet, Microsoft will release the Courier in Q3 or Q4 of this year.

Apple's iPad certainly turned some heads when it was previewed in January, though not all of the attention it received was positive.  Despite curiously selecting a name that was once used in a Mad TV parody skit about feminine hygiene products, the device is sure to draw some early customers, if nothing else, when it launches to Wi-Fi and 3G forms in April (April 3 for the Wi-Fi version).

Long time Apple rival Microsoft has been working on its own tablet for nearly as long as the Cupertino corporation.  In September 2009, even as Apple's designs remained secret and unknown, pictures and details about Microsoft's Courier dual-screen tablet device first aired.

Since, Apple has taken the reins with its big January iPad announcement, and Microsoft has been curiously quiet.  However, 
Engadget's source has leaked a lot of new information about the upcoming tablet.

According to the source, the Courier will weigh just over a pound (similar to the iPad, which weighs 1.6 lb) and will function as a "digital journal"-cum-eBook reader.  It will be under and inch thick and have a closed size about as big as a 5x7 inch picture.  Its two screens will reportedly be powered by NVIDIA's Tegra 2, a ultra-low-voltage Cortex A9 ARM processor.

The tablet will run on the same base OS that Windows Mobile 7 and the Zune HD OS are built on, Windows CE 6.  The device will center around writing and drawing, with the ability to post everything you write to a personal website with flexible sharing levels.  Like the iPad, the Courier will have a 3.5 mm headphone jack, but it one-ups its fruity competitor, offering a built-in camera as well.

Engadget has new HD videos of the device in action, but the content is mostly the sames as the preview videos that aired in September.  The focus on journal activities is reiterated in them.

Ultimately, the iPad and the Courier are both very alike and very different.  Both share the same challenges -- a public that for years has been lukewarm to tablet devices and the challenge of selling an eye strain-inducing LCD device as an eBook reader.  At the same time, both devices may be able to carve out a niche for themselves by their different perks in addition to being an eBook reader.  In Apple's case it's the iPad's app library, which includes the ability to run higher resolution apps.  In Microsoft's case it's the journal functionality of the device, which seems well suited for the blog-loving busy current internet population.

It should be interesting to see who comes out on top when the pair go head to head sometime late this year or early next year.

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From an Educational perspective.....
By SuzInKS on 3/8/2010 6:58:24 PM , Rating: 2
I work in Higher Ed and I think this comes closer to what students will need than what I've seen so far. This is what I see any type of device like this will need to be if it is to be a huge breakout success:

1. HAS TO MULTITASK -students have to be able to look at the e-textbook and take notes at the same time on a page (virtual). Students will also need to look up a words at the same time, view a page or video online, copy links, texts, and graphics over to their notes. Multitasking and being able to output to some other device is a must. Without it-the only market its good for is the consumer market.

2. pretty much every college has online courses. So the browser will need to be able to access the learning management system (like Blackboard, Moodle, eCollege). Those packages don't fully support every browser that comes out so it has to have the ability to download supported browsers. It can't just run Safari or Chrome-like browsers because those cause problem or parts of the course systems won't work. And again, it will need to be able to do both a browser and something that can take notes.

3. It will need some package that will allow the users to sync to their laptop or desktop. A laptop or netbook is not the most convenient thing to take to class since you are constantly running out of battery life but students will need to sync back up to to their laptop or desktop at home to move class, study, or research notes on to an appliance that was built to synthesis the info into an assignment.

Those are the three musts that I'm looking for in one of the new tablet/ebook/booklet/pad devices. If they can't do these, then I think it will stay a consumer level entertainment device....which is one way they can go I suppose. The company that gets these right will be way out in front. jmho

By Boze on 3/8/2010 8:22:58 PM , Rating: 2
Courier by its very nature is a multi-tasker. Look at the concept videos. It appears that the different aspects of the tablet are "always on" and are just switched to on the fly when you need them.

As far as #2, I never use my university's website, not even in class. Its trivial to download everything I need for a class (PowerPoints, PDFs, etc.) and then sync it with my netbook. And that also brings up a very sore spot for me about the Blackboard software that you mention, which my university uses. The developers of that POS need a wallop upside the head. I have to use IE, my least favorite browser in order to access the system, because they morons can't figure out how to make it work with Chrome. It would work fine, if they'd just learn how to properly code HTML and use standards.

So in review...

Point 1 is already done.
Point 2 is largely pointless, insofar as my experience and that of my friends demonstrates
Point 3 is such a basic demand that I don't think its even worth mentioning... although I'll mention it, since it was already covered in the new Courier videos that you can publish to the web and download the entire journal in PowerPoint, PDF, and some 3rd format of which I did not the icon.

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