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Microsoft talks about what happened to the Courier at Build 2018

The Microsoft Courier. The canceled legendary dual-screen computer from 2010 made a brief appearance during a session at Build 2018 today. In the session, Jon Friedman, a designer who worked on the courier, talked a little bit about what Courier was and why Microsoft decided to cancel the product.

The story isn't one we didn't already know, but it's nice to have a more official account on the matter. In short, the reason it was canceled is because it didn't fit in with what Microsoft were doing in the Windows space at the time. Courier ran a custom version of Windows, but at the time Microsoft was focused on making Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 the flagship versions of Windows for all devices.

Jon Friedman

The problem with Courier was that it didn't have a clear developer story. Microsoft wanted Metro apps to be the development platform Microsoft targeted, and Courier wasn't going to be able to run Metro apps. As such, Steve Ballmer decided to pull the plug on Courier. The Courier itself was going to be a dual-screen computer designed for note taking, email, and general productivity tasks.

These days, rumor has it that Microsoft is planning to take another stab at the dual-screen form factor, this time running Windows 10. Courier garnered a lot of interested many years ago, and news of its cancelation was heart-breaking to many following the topic. Perhaps Microsoft might be able to generate that same level of interest with its Andromeda device?

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

120 Comments
  • So Microsoft was talking about a foldable device at Build. The one they cancelled.
  • It was part of a larger story of failed products and lessons learned. It was a very good talk, actually.
  • Pls any chance we can get an abridged version of the talk as an article? Or maybe on the next WC podcast?
  • I imagine it was a fairly long talk then. Sorry, couldn't help myself.
  • Yeah my favorite part was when they talked about building a car... Then they realized they didn't know anything about cars. Lesson learned...oh wait
  • Did they talked about Windows Phone and Zune?
  • I haven't heard they did, Nadella even mentioned on many occasions about plans for iPhone and Android devices, i'm really hoping they are keeping things on the downlow and doing something.
  • Why would they? Windows is dead.
  • Really? As far as I know Windows is by far the most prolific pc OS around...?
  • It's effectively dead for consumers with Nadella focusing on his precious Cloud and Enterprise.
  • The video is now on Youtube… Check this out : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5MGVbRLHaQ
  • „Run Dmc and Jam master Jay Run!“
  • Could a product fail if it didn't exist?
  • With Microsoft, it is perfectly possible.
  • The video is now on Youtube… Check this out : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5MGVbRLHaQ
  • That's a sign...of regret maybe :D
  • "The Courier itself was going to be a dual-screen computer designed for note taking, email, and general productivity tasks" Maybe a sign of what to come with Andromeda. Add to the above quote continue phone to PC, teams, Timeline, Set, and other things that can be done with Microsoft Graph cross-platform.
  • Talking about this device at an event is a sign that they're ready to unveil the Surface Mobile/Andromeda. They could have shown off a beta product or released info/images, like they did with the unreleased Lumia's/3D Touch but they chose to talk about this at a big MS event, when talk is high and all over the place about their upcoming Surface/Andromeda foldable two-screen device. So in my opinion, this is basically a teaser preview from Microsoft for what's coming.
  • Count me in on that.
  • Your delusion is beyond imagination :)))
  • how can you be so sure?
  • He said it was his opinion only.
  • I bet 2 dollars that they won't release Andromey.
  • You found someone to loan you 2 dollars?
  • probably saved up from his paper round
  • Or like you, who found it in his parents sofa cushions.
  • Oh man graymatter00 thanks for the laugh you sir win best internet forum comment for the day :)
  • While I have nothing against the Courier, I'm willing to bet it would have sold in the thousands and not the millions.
  • I wonder how the your phone app plays in to rommy. Maybe since its full win ten and supports full Cortana and time line its redundant all except messaging apps. There still needs to be a solution for this and personally I liked the pre uwp Skype idea.
  • Andromeda has the same problem...NO APPS! I fear it will be DOA, sorry!
  • Balmer dancing around.... "PWA! PWA!PWA! PWA!PWA! PWA!" If Andromeda has full blown edge then APPS is a reality
  • I'm a fan of PWAs but PWAs are just not there yet. Just take a look at Google. They have a Google Maps PWA which will most likely not get the new awesome features they showed yesterday and that's all. No YouTube PWA or whatsoever.
    Facebook doesn't have a PWA expect Instagram which isn't really a good PWA.
  • m.youtube.com almost feels like a PWA, except notifcations. In every other way it's better than the official Android-YT-App or what you get on Tizen-driven TVs.
    And it works without an google account on your phone.
  • Not even close. No picture in picture, downloading of videos, or background play in the YouTube website. I have about that in the official YouTube app.
  • Wrong! PWAs are coming.
  • Right...the next big thing that will save wincrap and Microsoon...like bots were supposed to do the same thing a year and so ago, but did not? :))))
  • To Chromebooks. PWA helps Google more than it helps Windows. There is a reason Google led that charge.
  • Right now it does, yes, but if Microsoft markets a new, small device that can make phone calls, PWA's will suddenly become a lot more important for MS (even if the numbers can't match up), simply because it'll give them a mobile presence that can compete.
  • And lets not forget, ChromeOS runs Android apps, so it's got support on all fronts covered. Windows is a pure legacy play at this point. If you're not running legacy apps, there is no reason to get a Windows device. As a going concern, Windows is dead. Andromeda won't change that.
  • You have no life
  • Android apps on large tablets are cr*p. Heck, they're pretty crappy on smartphones... :-D As a notebook companion to a pc/laptop, or even a replacement for a low budget pc/laptop, an android alternative is not really an alternative...
  • Sorry. They are not crap on either. Too bad you have fanboy blinders on.
  • I don't, but I AM pushing 18 months on Android, and I'm not impressed so far. My kids have Android tablets, and anything but simple games for kids suck on those as well... It'd be a major bummer to have to do ANYTHING productive on one of those! I'm not hating on Android, but I'm not doing anything with my current Android smartphone that I wasn't doing better on my old Lumia 950XL before it was busted. Apps are not the be all end all, and Android certainly isn't the standard to strive for...
  • Again, I have used android apps on Chrome and they worked great. And Apps / software is totally needed for a platform. WHY DID WINDOWS 10 MOBILE NOT SUCCEED?
  • Forget the developer story. Back in 2010 cant imagine how expensive a dual screen miniature computer would be.
  • Not really. It would be low resolution screen (not for that time) and some old technology. Probably resistive touch screen.
  • Capacitive touch screen is already a thing already back then in 2010. So if Courier ever materializes, it would sport capacitive screens too. I bet its thickness would be like stacking 2 Surface Pros though, unless they use ARM as their CPU.
  • Before smartphones phones where that thick. Actually, i would prefer a device with 4,3" size and 3cm height over a 5,5" and 7mm height.
  • Could just glue your phone to a piece of wood or something. Try it & let us know how it works!
  • I'm in full agreement. My Palm Pre was a fantastic form factor.
  • Why would not use ARM? They already have windows phones. It would be run on custom OS, not on full windows, as Andromeda will be. And since this would be used with pen, resistive screen could be option. They already used it on their phones.
  • Andromeda isn't going to be full Windows. It is going to be a cut down version called Windows Core. No legacy Windows bits included and x86 compatibility will be in a future update. That has been the rumor for the last year or so.
  • Resistive screen in 2018. Yes!! That would surely attract so many customers...instead of going forward, to go backwards...well, considering how dumb they are, I wouldn't be surprised to see MS coming up with a resistive screen device :)))) and call it revolutionary
  • Here we are talking about 2010 cancelled Courier. Why you comment when you have no idea of what you are talking about? Never go full retard...
  • Well then mention it, you moron! Resistive screen in 2010??? What kind of moron would release such a thing in 2010 and expect people to actually buy it?? Well, desperate fanboys like you will buy any crap from Microsoon anyway...
  • Get some help.
  • The Courier cane at the wrong time but will be reborn as the Andromeda hybrid device
    When Windows 8 came out I think Microsoft blew it when they felt it would be easy for
    people to learn how to use it. they were wrong. the tiles are great for Windows Tablets but
    to replace the desktop PC screen for a screen rectangles and squares and 4 Charms at the right side of the screen was too far out for some people. even today People do not even see the
    tiles on the desktop unless you chose Tablet mode which few people use windows 8.1 made Windows 10 useable
  • 😏😏😏😏😏😏😏😏😏😏😏😏😏😏😏
  • I hope this was a prelude to announcing Andromeda tomorrow. I don't see any other reason this issue to brought up today. Fingers crossed...
  • Daniel says it came up in a a session about canceled devices, and lessons learned. It wasn't just some random mention solely about Courier... BUUTTT, it was a mention about courier, and if anything MS may be hinting that they know we are anticipating them cancel Andromeda. Maybe this is MS's way of saying "don't count us out so fast this time around"...❓❓❓
  • This talk about cancelled Courier seems rather odd since its been several years and they never "apoligize" for it nor really talking about it that officially. With the patents floating around, it seems a hint that they are really realising the Andromeda device, when? We don't have solid answers until it officially arrives, or not.
  • I mean.. I don't think anyone can argue with your statement.
  • Apologize for what? If that thing existed only for research and never anounced.
  • If you were going to introduce your new device would you preface it by showing your cancelled/failed device?
  • Conversely, say you're about to release a new piece of hardware and you know that the first thing the media are going to jump all over is the amount of abandonware you have left in you're wake. Take the initiative, address it yourself and frame it all as learning that has led you to this point. Even if everyone doesn't fully believe the spin, you have at the very least established key messaging for your entire organisation.
  • Ironically, this is the real world. You don't achieve anything meaningful without the path leading there littered with 'failures', or in this case, the so-called abandonware. It might sound like PR speak, but that is the reality of any pioneering work in any field. Doing or attempting anything new inherently contains seeds of potential 'failure', after all, that's why it is new and unknown. But then on the flip side, that's why some will forever lead the way while others can only follow at best - it really boils down to your capacity for handling so-called failures
  • I doubt anyone but fans would ever swallow one thing MS is talking about...
  • Well, that is one way to do it :)) Look, we canceled this one because it would have been useless, but expect us to release it now when it would be even more useless.
  • You seem to have strayed into the wrong site...? Best leave quickly, before you become too depressed!
  • Neah. I enjoy too much seeing you delusional fanboys believing every crap that idiot CEO is throwing at you..dreaming of the next big thing that will be killed off because no one will care about it.
  • Oh, so you're just a troll... Well, at least it's official now - we can all relax and ignore your posts.
  • :)) the fact remains the same, MS sucks these days, and fanboys like you make it look more pathetic than ever. Who cannot enjoy seeing fanboys desperately waiting for unicorns, and after they receive just an old goat they scramble around silently waiting for another big thing from their beloved Nutella @ Co.
  • How could be failed something that not released and never anounced? It existed only as research. Many companies have a lot things they working on it, but never been released.
  • Dat picture on the left... hmmm... not a Courier.
  • The event wasn't only about the courier.
  • And, wait a minute. Lol. How do you know what the courier was, or is?.. It's not like MS dabbled with one concept.
  • Yes they did. They produced a prototype device. This was years before they also produced a prototype Surface mini that was apparently the size of a Moleskine. That is what I’d bet the device pictured on the left is.
  • ⛽⛽⛽
  • No, we've only seen that one prototype device. That doesn't mean there might not be more.
  • You say courier and people know exactly what you're talking about. I think they may have been on to something.
  • So it was cancelled because it didn’t fit alongside a terrible OS and they hadn’t yet decided to face reality and admit their failure in the mobile phone market. Ballmer screwed this decision up almost as bad as Bill Gates’s dismissive attitude toward e-books years ago.
  • I could be wrong but I thought Courier didn't have email. Bill Gates thought that that should be done at the Outlook application on the desktop and swayed Balmer against it also. Is my recollection wrong? But man, as an aside, the way Daniel and Zac had explained the way the two screens came together on Andromeda in a curved manner minimising the "fold" and possibly allowing for a glance screen function on the spine when it's closed actually got me eager to see this Andromeda. I'm looking forward to see how this thing materialises.
  • That's what I recall about the Courier story at the time. Even further, it was more of a digital scrapbook, without much available along the lines of traditional PC expectations at the time - like the mentioned Gates/email story. A browser, notepad/handwriting transcriber, advanced clipboard workspace seemed to be the main features in the demo video.
  • So finally what is this on the left?
  • A prototype device....
  • This topic was not briefly raised as a coincidence.. MS is communicating between the lines here. The Dual screen not-phone ultra portable PC that can make phone calls and fits in your pocket is in the works imho Trust me as old Roger would say :-)
  • Sounds like zebras.
  • In short, the reason it was canceled is because it didn't fit in with what Microsoft were doing in the Windows space at the time *at the time*
  • Also running a custom ROM (reason Band was terminated) stating the development which I'm guessing is apps and store, even Windows 10 lacks.
  • FYI guys, the thing on the left is the courier folded. that's all...relax!
  • No it's a subliminal hint, can't you read through the lines & see what the real secret message is?!
    The delusion factor is a little higher than normal today...
  • Ok why are you here
  • This time won't make any difference as well. They nailed their developer and user trust, their app platform is a joke for such type of devices. Such small device needs a proper touch UI and UX with apps optimized for it...congrats fanbabies running desktop apps, on the go, on that screen...I'll wait the news where a weirdo asked Starbucks to provide a monitor, keyboard and mouse for his "next big thing" PC :)))
  • Ok why are you here
  • Part of the pathetic troll club....
  • Well the truth hurts you, doesn't it fanboy? Every non delusional person that sees the reality of shi**ness MS is in, is a troll :)) Well I can see your IQ level is outstanding then.
  • As opposed to part of the pathetic fanbaby club, eh rodney? The fanbaby club where no matter what crap microsoft comes up with, you will defend to the bitter end because you cannot see beyond the window. so to speak?
  • Preparing us for the Surface Courier, I hope!
  • Your all forgetting Microsoft can't provide a Mobile platform that can be offered mainstream due to the lack of apps and developers.
    For a mobile device it will need to allow actual software to be installed which again starts hitting the enterprise sector, also PWA aren't going to make the consumer jump to Microsoft, the trendy apps like Snapchat ect aren't going to do a PWA. Even Windows 10 lacks apps and developers the Microsoft store is shocking compared to its competitors, I also guarantee is a folders let device came out it would be like Windows 10 S (S Mode) locked up so you cant do s**t.
    I personally like to a Microsoft made foldable device that runs Android but built in Microsoft apps and launcher. As so far in build have mentioned the way they are supporting Apple and Android with timeline and the Launcher for Enterprise. It would sell more that way to.
    I use the Launcher on my OnePlus5 and it's great works very well and constant support.
  • Launcher only gives you the same sea of icons indicative of Android and iPhone. It also gives a laughable encounter with Cortana instead of the full-blown, completely hands-free experience that works on Windows phones. The shortcomings of Launcher are plenty.
  • They should put squares around those icons and they would no longer be a sea! Squares fix everything.
  • This "new" foldable device from Microsoft is destined to be a failure. Who wants to carry around multiple devices? I'm not going to carry a phone and a foldable computer, I just want one device.
  • I said that about tablets, too, in the beginning... Fixing note taking with a proper device to do it with would go a long way I think. That's still not quite what you want it to be on the current form factors.
  • The "foldable computer" would also be your phone. MS has been moving this direction for a while now. Open your start menu/screen and type "phone". I bet a phone app will appear in the results. The foldable computer won't be for everyone just like a Galaxy Note isn't for everyone. I do see flip phones making a return as these foldable devices. I'd like to have my S8+ fold in half (flat without a Surface Book hinge bump), and I could use basic features like calls, texts, email, and weather. Then I could unfold the device to do more intensive things like streaming videos, gaming, or getting work done. I think a slider phone would be interesting to see with a single continuous display.
  • Except a small foldable computer would be more portable than a laptop.
  • Oh but would be very easy: the foldable device and a flip-phone, all that's needed.
  • It would replace my smartphone AND act as a stand-in for my laptop in certain situations... I could use it in private AND at work!
  • Take two phones and put them side by side. Is that really enough real estate to replace your laptop? Maybe for some I guess, but I don't see it.
  • For certain use cases, yes. It would certainly replace my tablet, and likely also my smartphone. One less device to upgrade... Besides, you're missing the UWP factor; connecting this device to a 24" monitor plus wireless mouse and keyboard and you're rocking, unless you need to do processor intensive work...
  • You undermine your entire point by saying that. Continuum was an abject failure. Even Samsung can't get any traction with that idea.
    The issue with a folding phone or tablet is that it doesn't add much utilty compared to a nonfolding version. It just sounds cool. There isn't much you're going to be able to do on two 5.5" screens slapped together as opposed to a single screen. If you have to plug it into a dock to get added utility, why don't you just save yourself the massive engineering headache & use a single screen? MS tried that already & failed.
    If you have a use for this extremely niche product, great. I just think a lot of readers here are going to be disappointed with the final version of what this thing is if they ever actually release it.
  • Zero interest. I have my phone, I have my tablet. My phone does almost everything my tablet does but EASILY fits in any pocket and is easy to use one-handed. When I need more than that, my SP is PERFECT.
  • Good for you - in my case, it could probably eliminate my need for a smartphone and significantly reduce the need to lug around my relatively heavy SP4... We all have different use-cases and needs; personally, I'm thrilled at the prospect of reducing my hardware stockpile and having a more versatile device at hand at any given moment.
  • Metro apps and Windows 8 failed HARD! I liked Windows 8 / 8.1 myself but, they hitched their wagon to the wrong horse and now it shows.
  • I think it is them letting you down easy. They will probably add it to next year's talk about canceled products
  • Take the Courier lessons and apply it to a smartphone/tablet device. It should fold in half to cover both screens and so only one screen is visible at a time, when closed there should be an e-ink display on the outside so notifications and the time are easily visible (think glance screen or AOD), and the "crease" where the screens meet should curve like the Galaxy phones so the bezel is minimal or nonexistent to the user's eye. Running full Windows would be nice, but I'd settle for Windows 10S as long as there is good developer support. The most important thing is Microsoft needs to actually care about their product and stick with it for at least 5 years. I'm done being an unwitting guinea pig. Windows 10 mobile is still my favorite OS, but Microsoft stopped caring about it, Cortana, app development, and phone hardware. The Lumia 950 successor sounds like it would've been an awesome device. TL;DR: It needs to take the best tech we have now and push it a step further. Given their recent mobile track record, Microsoft needs to prove to consumers that they will truly support the platform and not have a repeat of W10 mobile.
  • Who cancelled the courier.. ooh the messiah.. Steve Balmer.. apparently he even mocked the iPhone which has single handedly made Apple the largest stock of today. It's silly how many people think of him as the savior
  • It's just that Microsoft takes soooo long to do things. My kids will be in kindergarten before an Andromeda device is unveiled.
  • I actually think that Andromeda will be released with Redstone 5 in October. Andromeda is the perfect device to showcase Windows Core OS, CShell and Composers. Andromeda is the perfect device to showcase the cross-platform features of Windows between a phone, a mobile device (Andromeda), and a PC. Update: Also Andromeda will be perfect device for PWAs. I am hoping the Amazon will convert there Kindle and Amazon Music websites to PWAs with offline capabilities.
  • It might be announced in October, but released? Nah. Q2/Q3 2019 going by their track record, at the earliest.
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2826&v=Q5MGVbRLHaQ