Surface Courier moves into focus

The Surface Courier moves into focus with several patents showing Microsoft's achievements in bringing the device to life. The Courier, a smaller device than the Surface Pro, is expected to debut in partnership with Qualcomm and Windows on ARM.

Several reports indicate the anticipated specifications for the new Surface Courier, including a 10.5" touch screen, a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, Bluetooth, Wifi AC, a front and rear camera, all day battery life, a Surface Connect charging port, and a MicroSD card slot. Also anticipated is the inclusion of 128GB of storage and 4GB of RAM.

Due to the size and shape of the device, we are not expecting a USB-A or USB-C port. Instead, all expansion will be made available via compatibility with the existing Surface Dock, and possibly also via a new smaller docking solution, similar to the Microsoft Display Dock.

In Focus

The Surface Courier is reported to be a 10.5" device, larger than a phone and smaller than any current Surface PC, and on par size-wise with the recently-revealed iPad 10.5". While the iPad features only a Lightning port for physical expansion, the Surface Courier is anticipated to employ both the Surface Connect dock port and a MicroSD card slot, akin to its bigger brother, the Surface Pro.

The focus of the Courier is on media consumption and note taking. The PixelSense display will be compatible with touch input from your finger as well as the Surface Pen. The display will be too small for practical on-screen use of the Surface Dial, however it is still expected to feature compatibility with the Dial for those who wish to use it on the desk or on-screen, keeping the familial attributes alive across devices.

Several use-cases for the Courier have been shared with XYZtech, including:

  • note-taking with OneNote and Windows Ink

  • annotation with Edge

  • sketching, drawing, and charting

  • creating shopping lists and To Do lists

  • video, multimedia, and news consumption across Store apps

  • messaging via the Pen or the on-screen keyboard

  • text, voice, and video calls via Skype

  • short emails in Outlook.

Dock Me, One more time

Docking the Courier enables a range of productivity tasks to be completed, with the Courier providing the computing power. When attached to a dock, extending the Courier to be more like a PC, with a large screen monitor, a keyboard and mouse, enables light productivity tasks to be completed:

  • creating and editing documents in Word

  • creating and sending emails in Outlook

  • creating, editing, and viewing PowerPoint presentations

  • connecting to wired Ethernet networks and networked services

Windows 10 on ARM

Expected to be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, the Surface Courier will be the first device to herald the arrival of Windows 10 on ARM. Other Snapdragon-powered devices are expected to follow, including touchscreen tablets, small laptop style devices, 2-in-1 devices, and powerful handheld devices, in a class above the smartphone we know and love today.

After the introduction of the Surface Courier, Microsoft is expected to unveil its UltraMobile PC, also based on an ARM processor. Imagine a smartphone-sized device that can fully replace your laptop, and you're getting close to the vision of the UltraMobile.

Surface Branding

The Surface team have tightly controlled the Surface brand, ensuring that new devices are category-creating devices, perhaps with the exception of the Surface Laptop. While the Surface Laptop refined and re-engineered many common features in new ways, it wasn't strictly a category-creator. It did cater to the need for a more mainstream device with broad appeal, in a familiar form factor.

Just like the Surface Pro and Surface Studio, the Surface Courier is intended to define a new category of portable computing attached to the Surface brand.

The Surface Courier has been designed primarily with touch as its main input method. Whether you touch it with your fingers or touch it with the Surface Pen, touch will be the main input method.

There will of course be an on-screen keyboard, and there will be the option to connect a Bluetooth Keyboard to the device, or connect a regular keyboard via one of two docking solutions.

The Surface Courier remains true to its premium brand position by being slim, light, fanless, noiseless, with premium construction and interconnected with premium accessories. While we don't expect the Courier packaging to include a Surface Pen, the device will include the familiar side-mounted magnetic Pen attachment, with Pen recharging capability.

Why the Dock and Pen are important

Central to the vision of the Surface Courier are the dock and pen. Utilising touch as the primary input method, the Surface Pen and your fingers become the preferred mode of interacting with the display throughout the day and into the evening. The ability to dock the device and connect to a larger screen, keyboard, and mouse, extend the functionality of the Courier into a light computing device for Word documents, emails, light content creation and media consumption

Familiarising people with the Pen and Dock modes is important for the next step of the journey. As highlighted above, the UltraMobile PC is the next piece of the puzzle in the Surface Family. The long-rumoured 'Surface Phone' will be branded as an ultra-mobile PC, a category between a phone and laptop, with the abilities of both, but with its hardware and operating system more closely aligned with the guts of a PC. To enable a phone-sized device to work as a fully-fledged PC, customers need to be comfortable with attaching a accessories to the phone via a dock.

Imagine your have a dock at home and a dock at work. Your dock at work attaches your monitor, keyboard mouse, and network resources. Your dock at home attaches to another monitor , keyboard, mouse, printer, and so on. When you move the 'phone' between home and work, the 'brain' of your PC experience travels with you.

To increase adoption, Microsoft and its hardware partners may introduce monitors that integrate the dock. Simply plug your keyboard, mouse, printer, network, external backup hard drive, and so on, into your monitor. Next, use one cable to attach your UltraMobile or your Courier tablet to your monitor-dock, and you're ready to go, using the mobile as the 'brain' of your PC, and keeping your content with you, and backed up in the cloud.

Until next time,

Xavier Zymantas

XYZ Media Group

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