Microsoft dumps the Courier

Rumors are surfacing that Microsoft has called it quits on their much hyped but completely vaporware Courier tablet. While this is surprising, it’s not really surprising. While MS has been touting the device and their touch technology for months they’ve yet to make any progress in bringing the device to market. They’ve never announced a deadline, never set a beta cycle and never showed off anything more than hopes and dreams on what a tablet by Microsoft might look like if they ever got one out the door.

Microsoft dropping the ball and dropping the project really shouldn’t come as big news. Microsoft has been mismanaging touch technology and tablets since 2000. They were completely alone in the Tablet PC market yet couldn’t get anyone to come on board. Try as they might no tablet like device produced or controlled by Microsoft ever took the market by storm. Even Surface, their latest foray into this realm is hardly noticeable in the marketplace.

So what to do now? Microsoft’s best bet is to align with HP and make the Slate the best damn tablet the market has ever seen. Considering HP has just snapped up Palm, this is a grand opportunity for Microsoft to improve the Blackberry, let HP handle the hardware and produce a new series of phones and tablets that have stellar integration with Microsoft products and hardware that is cheap and reliable. Tablets and phones that allow you to run more fully featured versions of Office, Exchange, OneNote, etc would be a huge win for Microsoft, Power Users and Corporate customers.

For the consumer market, Microsoft needs to align with Dell to power their tablets. Dell is a trusted name and they know hardware. Microsoft would do well to write the OS to Dell’s hardware specs so that it can be incredibly small and overwhelmingly fast.

And Microsoft needs to stick with these two platforms and that’s it. Stop making a one size fits all tablet OS. They need to control the hardware and optimize Windows for that hardware. If they take the same approach as Apple they can make an incredibly powerful and extremely efficient device that will be less prone to errors and crashes.

But the window of opportunity is closing fast. Each day Microsoft and everyone else waits is several thousand more iPads in the hands of users. In order to have a device available for Christmas and not get completely shut out of the tablet market they need to have something on the shelves by October which means they need a fully functioning device ready for viewers by July which means they have 2 months to get their act together.

Can Microsoft, HP and Dell pull it all together in two months to even have a chance at being a part of the tablet market? And notice I didn’t say lead or be dominant. Microsoft won’t be a dominant player in the tablet space. Considering they’re giving Apple a free 6 month head start and a lead of several hundred thousand units they’re going to be playing catch up right out of the gate. And the device can’t be mediocre, it has to be amazing and beat the iPad in every category otherwise it will simply be glossed over. And even if they do make a whiz-bang device, there is still version 2 of the iPad on the horizon. Let’s not forget that MS still needs to build all the app store infrastructure and make it work flawlessy and convince developers to port games and utilities over to their device as well as convince them they won’t just disappear out of the market (again) in the next year.

A long road ahead to be sure.

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