The Microsoft Courier project is back. The device once known as Microsoft Courier is likely to be labelled the Surface Courier, and fill the spot once rumoured to be taken by the Surface Mini.
Many years ago, 2009 in fact, Microsoft released a concept video of the Courier, a small touchscreen tablet with pen functionality, that was part scrapbook, part journal, part PDA, part tablet, and was to go head to head with the then-new iPad Mini.
While the iPad Mini made its mark at the time, and others tried to compete, no one matched the success or the usability of Apple's Mini.
Next came the Surface Mini, a device that was almost launched, and cancelled at the very last minute before being announced on stage. No one quite knows that happened to those production devices that rolled off the assembly lines. Perhaps they're in Bill Gates' house, being used as IP phones. Maybe they ended in Steve Ballmer's trophy cabinet.
Back to the Surface Courier
As we reported in February 2017, and again in March 2017, and again in June 2017, the Courier has had a somewhat elusive existence. It tends to pop up, cause a stir, then disappear. It was briefly out-ranked by a Lumia tablet, then overshadowed by the success of the larger Surface Pro.
After a long wait, we thought the Courier was about to make an appearance - only to have our hopes dashed in October 2017 when Microsoft unceremoniously called an end to Windows Mobile.
Just when we thought all was lost, Microsoft and Qualcomm delighted Windows developers and prosumers with the announcement of a partnership and a prototype device based on smart Qualcomm chips running WIndows on ARM.
New information this week comes directly from Microsoft and Qualcomm, at the Qualcomm 5G Summit in Hong Kong. In an interview with Trusted Reviews, Microsoft spokesman Pete Bernard elaborated on Microsoft's plans, which had advanced over the last twelve months, with the result being hundreds of devices undergoing testing at Microsoft's campus in Redmond.
While only initially being drawn to comment on laptop-style devices, Microsoft and Qualcomm executives went on to refer to portable PC form factors, at varying price points, from multiple vendors.
We already know that one of the goals for the Courier device is to deliver a small tablet, with a pen, long battery life, Wifi, and cellular connectivity. All of this dove-tails extremely well into a Qualcomm Snapdragon-based platform.
To be released in December 2017
Microsoft and Qualcomm both re-iterated their roadmap for release of the Snapdragon-powered devices, saying they are on-track for a December 2017 release of the first devices, in a laptop form factor, expected from HP, Acer, and Lenovo.
In the same way that Microsoft debuted the Surface line, to be followed by other manufacturers, we anticipate that Microsoft will release the Surface Courier in early 2018, to be the hero model of the small ink-and-pen tablet market, with similar devices from other partners to follow shortly after.
Short take: Expect the Courier to arrive in early 2018.
Until next time,
XYZ Media Group