Microsoft Courier: Sweeter than the iPad?

Well, at least I think so.  I went on and on about how cool the iPad is not too long ago, and I still think it's a beautiful device.  I was convinced I'd line up like the rest of the Apple crowd, but I've been waffling for weeks on whether I really want to drop the cash.

Then I saw the preview of the Microsoft Courier.

From that moment on, I decided that I will not be purchasing an iPad at launch, and perhaps not at all.  I mean, I do already have an iPhone, but that's not really why.  The Courier appears to do things the iPad doesn't/can't do, and those are things I like.  Here are some of them:

1.  The Courier Has Two Screens

How could an eBook reader be more book-like than by having two screens?  Other than being made out of paper, I can't see how.  The makes a huge difference when being used as a "journal."  I'm also digging the clamshell concept, it's good protection for when the device is not in use.

2.   Oh Yeah, It's a Journal Too

I've always wanted to keep a journal, but never have.  I recently started using Momento for the iPhone to drop my non-public, deepest thoughts, but it feels somehow impersonal.  I've always had a love affair with the good old bright yellow legal pad; there's nothing quite like putting your thoughts down to paper.  The Courier promises to give you an electronic journal writing environment like no other.

3.  The Interface is Drop Dead Sexy

The video really tells it all - but Microsoft has clearly taken a cue from Apple on this one, which is a great thing.  You know I'm a sucker for a great UI; I feel it defines the entire enjoyment and experience of a fine gadget.  Elegant page turns and multi-touch gestures abound on this bad boy, and judging by the presentation, it looks to be just gorgeous.  If what is delivered is what is on that video... it's better than the iPhone OS, in my opinion.

4.  Online Sharing Made Easy

I know, we don't really need ANOTHER online sharing service, but the online journal sharing thingy they show off in the videos looks clean, simple, well-designed, and useful.  One click sharing from the Courier to this service is a pretty nice feature.

What Remains to Be Seen

Frankly, if this thing was in stores right now and looks and works just like the video, I woudn't be writing a blog post.  I'd be writing a review.  And ignoring my credit card bill.

Syncing and File Transfer?  Moving on, though, I do have a few concerns about the Courier.  For example, how will it work for Mac people in terms of syncing and file transfer?  Will I be able to sync it with my Mac stuff?  Google Calendar?  I currently do everything in MobileMe, so the transition might be a total pain.  Can I plug it in and transfer as if it were a USB disk?

Will it break the bank?  Also, what about the price?  I'm not prepared to cough up much more than $699 for this thing, and would much prefer a price tag of $499 for an entry level model.  If the price on this device is out of reach, it's going to be a tough sell for all but the gadget elite.

File formats for export from the Courier?   And then there's the formatting issue.  Will these "journal" entries be formatted in their own special, proprietary format that only Microsoft Windows computers can read? Or will they just export as a standard file format?

Apps?  Ah, apps.  They're what make the iPhone (and soon-to-be-available-iPad) so freaking awesome.  Without apps, I wouldn't really care about my iPhone... but the added functionality and fun, combined with great prices and a huge selection, make apps indispensable.  So, will the Courier be able to face off with Apple here?  Will they get the support from developers that they need for it to succeed?

One way or another, a lot is up in the air with the Courier, but it looks damn nice.  As painful as it's going to be, I'm going to have to grit my teeth and pass up the iPad launch just to discover what this thing can do before making the "tablet plunge."  While I don't think it's an iPad "killer," (a term that really annoys me actually) I do think it is going to create its own niche with professionals, writers, bloggers, creatives, students, and gadget nerds looking for a unique solution for logging and sharing their thoughts and ideas.

[See exclusive videos and photo galleries of the Courier at Engadget.] 


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