Microsoft’s Courier Tablet – Raised From the Dead… Kind’a

Somehow this seems fitting at this time of year that a darling visionary product from the pre-iPad era, called the Courier Tablet, that Microsoft then killed after the iPad announcement, is back. Well, not the actual device, but two apps that mimic some of the proposed Couriers’ functionality: Paper by 53 Studios and Tapose. For those who may not remember, just before the announcement of what was to become the iPad, Microsoft released a video of a “booklet” type device with dual 7-inch screens that used a stylus and multi-touch gestures and several gadget blogs, particularly Gizmodo and engadget, wet themselves thinking that Microsoft was going to trump whatever it was that Apple was going to announce. Then just before the original iPad was set to ship, Microsoft killed the Courier and decided that Windows 8 (expected in 2013) would be its tablet strategy, thus giving Apple a three-year-plus lead to continue it’s iOS juggernaut.

How Microsoft snatched defeat from the jaws of victory is a fascinating read, but fortunately for us what Microsoft threw away has come back to us in the form to these two iPad apps, Paper by 53 Studios and Tapose. At this past macworld I was surprised to discover that there has been a growing trend toward notetaking on iPad/iOS that is drawing-centric, breaking digital input limitations to keyboard only. Looking at the productivity apps on my iPad I see that I already have two that use the drawing/stylus input model: Note Taker HD and Notability. Seems to be a good time for something that purposefully breaks the keyboard-input model and makes the iPad into the sketchbook of choice.

Paper by FiftyThree from FiftyThree on Vimeo.

Paper is decidedly less ambitious than Tapose in showing it’s Courier heritage. Consequently the reviews for Paper are much more glowing, with Tapose suffering from promising too much out of the gate and crashing a lot. Paper also uses an interesting “free to use” but if you want more types of pens or drawing tools you’ll need to purchase them in-app. Tapose is relatively inexpensive, but not free. And I detected when viewing the extended demo video that the app developer is hoping to offer cloud storage for a fee to support the product. So, besides using a different kind of note-taking interface, both products are creating a niche to generate revenue.

As far as graphic notetaking, the visual notetaking guru who I met at macworld, Rachel Smith, recommended two tools: Sketchbook pro or brushes. I’m still unconvinced about the efficiency of visual notetaking, having gone the long journey from being a doodler in the margins from way back, to seeing that digital notes are much more useful because of their search-ability and that I can type a hell of a lot faster than I can write (speaking nothing of the complete illegibility of my handwriting!). But if one looks at note-taking as the function of making a memory and doodling/drawing assists in creating these memories or also the use of drawing to think through problems that don’t lend themselves to words and keyboard then these tools present interesting possibilities. At the moment I still prefer the keyboard interface with some drawing features and have used Circus Ponies Notebook app to organize my thoughts and projects (Notebook is available as an iPad app and Mac app). The possibilities are endless.


Image: Courier Tablet by Gizmodo,

youtube video: Microsoft Courier interface demo HD,
Uploaded by misakralicek on Mar 8, 2010
Microsoft Courier inteface demo HD
New 2010/2011 Microsoft tablet
New Microsoft tablet HD

vimeo video: Paper,
Paper is where ideas begin. It’s the easiest and most beautiful way to create on the new iPad. Capture your ideas as sketches, diagrams, illustrations, notes or drawings and instantly share them across the web. Download “Paper by FiftyThree” from the App Store. #madewithpaper

More info:

Director: Andrew S Allen
Cinematographer: Jason Sondhi
Production Assistant: Julian Walker
Music: “Come Back” by Lotus Plaza
(Available at
Stylus: Wacom Bamboo (link to buy here:

youtube video: Tapose
Uploaded by TaposeApp on Dec 13, 2011
We want to thank Isaac Graham for the music from his song “Columbus.” – “Columbus” by Isaac Graham (

Special thanks as well go to Mike Farrow at for his help with the video.

youtube video: Tapose Video Walkthrough,
Uploaded by TaposeApp on Mar 29, 2012
Quick walkthrough of Tapose showing all its features

Courier: First Details of Microsoft’s Secret Tablet, GIZMODO,

The inside story of how Microsoft killed its Courier tablet by Jay Green/CNET,

Paper: the iPad sketchbook app from the brains of Courier (video) by Darren Murph,

Tapose brings Microsoft Courier to the iPad by Kelly Hodgkins/TUAW,

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