Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 1st Nov 2011 22:55 UTC
Microsoft "Steve Ballmer had a dilemma. He had two groups at Microsoft pursuing competing visions for tablet computers. One group, led by Xbox godfather J Allard, was pushing for a sleek, two-screen tablet called the Courier that users controlled with their finger or a pen. But it had a problem: it was running a modified version of Windows. That ran headlong into the vision of tablet computing laid out by Steven Sinofsky, the head of Microsoft's Windows division. Sinofsky was wary of any product - let alone one from inside Microsoft's walls - that threatened the foundation of Microsoft's flagship operating system. But Sinofsky's tablet-friendly version of Windows was more than two years away." I'm still mad at Microsoft for this one.
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At risk of severe down-voting...
by Laurence on Wed 2nd Nov 2011 13:51 UTC
Laurence
Member since:
2007-03-26

I'm going to risk severe black-lash here and say that I never liked the look of Courier anyway.

As a concept device, it was great. But as a real world product, it just looked terrible:

* duel screen is just horrible in my opinion. I know they're trying to emulate an journal but I don't want my tablet to have a spine down the middle.

* the mixture of long presses, gestures and interactive widgets were a usability nightmare. So much functionality was hidden behind arbitrary user interactions that you'd have to memorise the OS inside-out to make it practical for everyday use. Current tablet OSs have a more uniformed UI specification, which may not always be prettier, but on the whole makes them more usable and with a lower learning curve.

* lack of thought for 3rd party applications can make this device very limiting. the whole OS seems like it was built around MS's vision with very little scope for customisation nor extendability. I know MS have been criticized for pushing Win7 and XP onto tablets and then expecting their OEMs and/or users to adapt the OS to the customers way of working, but the Courier was too far the other way.


So I can't say I'm any more disappointed by this article than I was when I first read about MS dropping the Courier.

Reply Score: 3

MOS6510 Member since:
2011-05-12

The Nintendo DS(i) (Lite) (XL) has a dual screen, which I personally don't like that much. They do not form one bigger screen, but rather 2 separate screen you need to switch between both physically with your eyes as mentally with your brain.

Simple game controls are one thing, but if you'd use it for serious stuff I seriously doubt it would be a pleasant experience.

Reply Parent Score: 2

zima Member since:
2005-07-06

You forgot about multi-monitor configurations? Many of their owners would call it "serious stuff" (or even "very serious"). Physical and mental switching doesn't seem to be a show-stopper.

The "physical" is even barely the case on DS, with its minuscule size (the design was possibly also about clamshell form-factor, after GBA SP experiment - the handheld being smaller and more sturdy that way, but with more screen).
"Mental" - depends on the game (heck, it's also sort of the case with split-screen gaming on one display). One of the displays is often treated as a control area on which one barely needs to look; or an info-screen / map which would otherwise "steal" even more attention or screen real-estate, in traditional variants.

Reply Parent Score: 2

phoenix Member since:
2005-07-11

* the mixture of long presses, gestures and interactive widgets were a usability nightmare. So much functionality was hidden behind arbitrary user interactions that you'd have to memorise the OS inside-out to make it practical for everyday use.


And ... that's different from today's smartphone/tablet OSes how exactly? Android, iOS, WebOS, etc are chock full of interactive widgets, multi-finger gestures, long presses, hardware buttons, software buttons, non-uniform UIs, etc. And none of them come with manuals that explain what anything does. It's a usability nightmare. And none of the knowledge learned on one OS is transferable to another OS.

Current tablet OSs have a more uniformed UI specification, which may not always be prettier, but on the whole makes them more usable and with a lower learning curve.


Hah. That's the funniest thing I've read yet.

Reply Parent Score: 2

Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26

Hah. That's the funniest thing I've read yet.

And ... that's different from today's smartphone/tablet OSes how exactly? Android, iOS, WebOS, etc are chock full of interactive widgets, multi-finger gestures, long presses, hardware buttons, software buttons, non-uniform UIs, etc. And none of them come with manuals that explain what anything does. It's a usability nightmare.



I can't speak about iOS, but there is more consistency with Android (I'm sure it's true for iOS as well given Apples strict policies).

Granted there's some apps that break things, but generally a button looks like a button. things that scroll look like lists. List items are traditionally "clickable" - this behavior doesn't really change from app to app.

There's a standard set of objects which consists of menus, buttons, progress bars, message boxes, and so on. Notifications are all kept in one place. App launchers are all stored in one place. You even have 'hardware' buttons that roughly perform the same functions in every app (eg menu, home screen, back, search).

I'm not in any way saying smart phones have got things perfect and I do agree with you that a lot of functionality is hidden away behind unintuitive interactions. However, for the most part, it's all pretty straightforward.

However after watching all of the Courier promos, I still hadn't a clue how most of the functions were run. The thing tried too hard to function like an old fashion diary while being modern and interactive. On this occasion, MS managed to create something needlessly complicated by merging the worst of two worlds together.

And none of the knowledge learned on one OS is transferable to another OS

To a degree, that's true for any OS: on desktop, server or mobile platforms.

In fact, what drives people to one OS over another is generally the differences (ie I prefer the way xyz does something) rather than the similarities.

Plus companies would probably get their product banned in the "free markets" of half the developed world -due silly to patent laws- if they did try to implement transferable skills into their OSs ;)

Edited 2011-11-02 21:37 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

zima Member since:
2005-07-06

* the mixture of long presses, gestures and interactive widgets were a usability nightmare. So much functionality was hidden behind arbitrary user interactions that you'd have to memorise the OS inside-out to make it practical for everyday use. Current tablet OSs have a more uniformed UI specification, which may not always be prettier, but on the whole makes them more usable and with a lower learning curve.

* lack of thought for 3rd party applications can make this device very limiting. the whole OS seems like it was built around MS's vision with very little scope for customisation nor extendability. I know MS have been criticized for pushing Win7 and XP onto tablets and then expecting their OEMs and/or users to adapt the OS to the customers way of working, but the Courier was too far the other way.

& the nearby:
However after watching all of the Courier promos, I still hadn't a clue how most of the functions were run. The thing tried too hard to function like an old fashion diary while being modern and interactive. On this occasion, MS managed to create something needlessly complicated by merging the worst of two worlds together.


Metro (the "way forward" instead of Courier) might have not entirely unrelated problems - certainly I had a strong impression that the people presenting WP7 were quite lost in its UI, particularly during early demonstrations (yes, early - still, they were supposed to "sell" it, they should have decent familiarity already)

Perhaps it's not that great. It looks sleek, sure, but there seem to be many people who get stuck while trying to use it, to pick it up (it seems not only I have this impression - bloodline comments in this thread http://www.osnews.com/thread?494755 for example )

It's fairly consistent all right - but perhaps that consistency builds upon not so great interaction model.

In fact, what drives people to one OS over another is generally the differences (ie I prefer the way xyz does something) rather than the similarities.

Perhaps it's too different and/or not very suited to humans after all.

Consider (unavoidable analogy ;p ) how the steering wheel wasn't a standard UI of cars for a few decades - but once we "discovered" it, nothing can quite replace it (and there were experiments, for example a "swinging joystick" of sorts above the central tunnel*) - probably only a massive paradigm shift, like autonomous cars (*this could fit them well), can change that.

Perhaps ~WIMPy UIs (hey, few here think that iOS or Android UIs aren't a very big departure from them...) is what works for humans - at least, before / precluding some massive paradigm shifts (say, neural implants for example ;p )


PS. And generally, we're talking here about a company which, for almost a decade, tried pushing "very desktop" UI onto mobile phones - with poor results, not surprisingly.
So, what do they decide to do next? (with Windows 8) Well, pushing phone UI onto desktops, of course! ;)

Edited 2011-11-06 19:09 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2