Ayende @ Rahien

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Microsoft Courier

There are some things that I just don’t get. The new MS Courier is one such thing. Check the link, this is basically a book size iPhone/tablet.

Go checkout the video, you’ll notice something that will kill this device.

It uses a pen, to write!

Leaving aside the fact that no OCR program has yet been able to figure out what I am writing (including the one in my brain), using a pen it annoying.

I write about three to four times as fast using a keyboard than using a pen (and I can use both hands). And I don’t write, using archaic pen & paper, much at all. That affect my writing readability when I am using a pen, of course, leading to a feedback cycle.

This pretty much turn me off of the device completely.

Comments

Marc Gravell
09/23/2009 07:17 AM by
Marc Gravell

I'm not so sure that is a bad thing... I recently started getting some "fun" RSI, and I use the train a lot. A device like this, using a pen/stylus would actually be quite attractive compared to crippling my wrists. So for the right user...

And yes, I also suffer from "rarely write, barely legible" syndrome (heck, I can barely do my own signature these days), but I am confident that I could adapt.

If the price was right, I'd give it a go. Absolutely. I've also heard people say that the iPhone + Desktop combo makes this non-viable; again - an iPhone doesn't let me do "real" stuff on the train. Of course, it would need enough grunt etc...

Igal Tabachnik
09/23/2009 07:19 AM by
Igal Tabachnik

But Ayende, I have a feeling that this device is not intended for you.

What would you use it for?

A colleague of mine, who studies in the university, is currently looking for a tablet or Wacom pen solution to taking notes in class, and write down graphs in lectures. You can't do that with a keyboard, not very fast, anyway. I think that this device would be perfect for him.

Or maybe engineers/architects who need to do a lot of scribbling/drawing, and much less typing.

configurator
09/23/2009 07:21 AM by
configurator

It's a tablet PC... Tablets are definitely not for developers. This goes out to the same potential customers as existing tablet PCs, which also have pens mostly.

This is definitely not for me or you, but I'm sure my dad will enjoy it.

Marc Gravell
09/23/2009 07:22 AM by
Marc Gravell

Additional; pure speculation, but I also wonder whether you could plug in a USB keyboard, essentially turning it into a mobile dual-head + graphics tablet device. Now that would be cool.

Igal Tabachnik
09/23/2009 07:23 AM by
Igal Tabachnik
  • if they'd allow turning off backlighting, this could be a great Kindle replacement :)
Marc Gravell
09/23/2009 07:24 AM by
Marc Gravell

@Igal - the lecture aspect is a really good idea; I studied math, and you can scribble equations etc a lot quicker than you can type them. The just is more important than the text.

I also happen to work for an education solutions provider... I must point this out to the right people...

James L
09/23/2009 08:01 AM by
James L

So good they named it after everyone's favourite typeface.

Rafal
09/23/2009 08:37 AM by
Rafal

I'm afraid the device will not be killed just because you don't like handwriting...

Dinesh Gajjar
09/23/2009 10:16 AM by
Dinesh Gajjar

I don't agree. Using Pen is a good thing! It's being around since thousands of years. I would love to put down specs as in a notebook and at the same time be able to search on it.

I am eagerly waiting for this device.

Will Hughes
09/23/2009 10:40 AM by
Will Hughes

@Dinesh

Have you ever written on a screen? It's nothing like writing on paper, there's nothing like the level of friction, and the sensitivity is difficult to guess.

This has a number of impacts on your writing style - long and quick strokes tend to be longer than intended. Writing in smallish areas is incredibly difficult.

In addition, the screens are nowhere near the resolution - so writing smaller is nigh on impossible, because the screen simply can't capture the detail.

If the screen is also capacitive, then you wouldn't be able to rest your hand on the screen while writing - that would activate/click/drag things. So, that leads to more strain on your arms. '

Pen interfaces are fine for limited text input, or where you are actually drawing something.

In addition, being able to search your writing relies on the software being able to recognise your handwriting - mine is very rarely recognised by the systems I've used.

Dinesh Gajjar
09/23/2009 11:21 AM by
Dinesh Gajjar

@Will, yes I agree it's different, but with a day of training you get used to it. I use it all the time, with my Cellphone as well as Tablet PC.

It's certainly xx times faster then using onscreen keyboard.

Troy Goode
09/23/2009 12:22 PM by
Troy Goode

Oren, the article you linked to says this:

"it is designed to be written and drawn on using a stylus, but also allowing the user to use their fingers, too"

So it isn't stylus-only. This seems quite interesting from the "surf from the couch" perspective that everyone was talking about while speculating on an iPhone Tablet all year. I agree with others that this kind of device isn't intended for doing your development work.

Chris Martin
09/23/2009 02:20 PM by
Chris Martin

Vista's handwriting recognition was pretty damn good. I'm guessing that Win7's will be on par or better.

And multi-touch FTW!

That device looks great. if it has USB ports, I'll have me one.

justin chase
09/23/2009 02:49 PM by
justin chase

Good luck typing on something that small. As fast as a keyboard is, a small touch keyboard is even slower than writing usually.

Mike Brown
09/23/2009 04:29 PM by
Mike Brown

Actually I had the same concerns with the Tablet PC, but I got my hands on one for a while and even without training the handwriting recognition was able to understand the majority of what I put into it. Shocked the heck out of me.

Now I don't know how it performs for other languages, but as far as my crappy englis handwriting goes, it works. As others said it's probably targeted for graphics oriented users and/or consuming rather than producing text.

Alan Schrank
09/23/2009 07:59 PM by
Alan Schrank

With the new multi touch technology, I'll bet you'll be able to type "on the screen" and with either usb or blue tooth be able to add a physical keyboard.

if it has a screen I can read as well as a kindle and if it does e-books, the stylus will be great for highlighting and adding notations.

If the screen is pressure sensitive, it could be great for editing artwork such as photographs or ePaintings,

firefly
09/23/2009 08:56 PM by
firefly

@ Will,

Have you used a "real" tablet pc? It really blow me away. A tablet pc with an active digitizer is on par, if not better, comparing to paper in term of writing. Of course it's not for everybody...

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