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Microsoft's Courier digital journal (Courier cancelled, April 29, 2010)

Here are videos and stills about Courier from engadget.

I think Courier looks very good, particularly its sense of hand and physicality. Courier appears to manage gracefully all kinds of information inputs, has an excellent metaphor (a notebook, a journal), and is crisp and clean. And it is all about content.

With its double-page spread design, the Courier metaphor is also the book, with obvious promise for electronic books (which will require a reasonably high-resolution screen).

It looks like a useful tool for artists and designers, and thus Courier should communicate with the Apple desktop. Courier will be pretty lonely if it is exclusive to Windows. Or maybe the cloud, which one hopes is OS agnostic, will cause appropriate communication and integration.

Probably the greatest challenge in interface design today is a journal notebook. For years, Microsoft, Apple, and many classes in industrial design have attempted to design a good journal notebook. I hope that Courier survives intact, coherent, and focused during its journey through Microsoft, a journey with lots of possibilities for messing it up.

But how close is the relationship between what is shown in the videos and the actual product in use?

-- Edward Tufte


Does Courier read minds?

The videos seem to have numerous instances where ambiguous user gestures are interpreted by the device reading the user's mind. Why does a swipe sometimes turn the page but other times cut a column out of a spreadsheet?

-- Matt Chaput (email)


Stylus magician

The video does show magically fast and accurate stylus-handwriting.

-- Edward Tufte


This is creativity?

What struck me the most about the concept videos was the notion that copying and pasting images from the web and adding some scribbles constitutes some kind of expression of creativity. I'm sure some designers would want exactly this, but I would feel much better if they showed a photographer sorting their photos, making notes and actually creating art instead of just taking good ideas from others.

-- Tony N. (email)


Pitching

It's what marketeers and commercial artists believe is creativity.

Because of the uncertain credibility of the Courier videos, our discussion here has now wandered off into a discussion about the pitch rather than the product. That's not what marketing should provoke. Videos of continuous live use of the Courier by one of the interface designers or project leads would have more credibility than well-polished pitches.

Hope I didn't get fooled by the Courier videos.

The live iPad demo by Steve Jobs, which went on for a long time and even showed the Flash-blackout icon at the NYTimes homepage, is a presentation method with more credibility than the highly-crafted Courier video.

-- Edward Tufte


Another viewpoint

http://www.roughlydrafted.com/2010/03/05/microsoft-courier-the-third-weak-link-in-a-miserable-mobile- strategy/

Both Daring Fireball and RoughlyDrafted suggest that the Courier videos are concept demonstrations, and do not represent a real operating interface. Who knows?

-- Edward Tufte


iPad comparison

Hands-on for iPad application design:

http://mattgemmell.com/2010/03/05/ipad-application-design

-- Edward Tufte