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9/23/2009
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Microsoft Testing 'Courier' Booklet PC

Software maker's track record in hardware is mixed, but prototype shows it hasn't given up.

Microsoft is prototyping a booklet-style computing device that appears to combine the functions of an e-reader, netbook, and PDA.

Courier, as it's called, features twin, seven-inch touch screens that are connected by a hinge and can fold out to provide the user with two work surfaces. One screen offers a Web browser while the other can present locally stored information like calendar entries, contact information and personal documents.

Courier's existence was first reported by the tech blog Gizmodo Wednesday but it has not been confirmed by Microsoft. Gizmodo posted a video that appears to show an animated mock up of the device in action.

The video shows a user writing notes through a stylus input device and turning pages with simple hand gestures, a la Apple's iPhone touch interface. There's no word on when, or if, Microsoft plans to bring the device to market, or whether it would run a version of Windows.

But Courier could be Redmond's answer to a similar device that Apple reportedly has in the works. It could also potentially challenge Sony and Amazon in the e-reader market.

Microsoft tends to shy away from hardware, with the exception of the highly popular Xbox gaming device and the not so popular Zune MP3 player. But the company needs to find new sources of revenue as demand for the Windows OS and Office application suite—the company's main cash cows—appears to be waning.

Microsoft launched a tablet-style PC in 2002 but the device failed to catch on with the general public. If Courier is to succeed in the market, it would need to improve on its forerunner's handwriting recognition capabilities and lofty price tag.

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