As a design study the Courier was a tremendous success back in 2010, but as a PR exercise it was something far more sinister.
I heard when I was visiting Microsoft HQ in Redmond that Microsoft had made the Courier concept public to demonstrate what could be built on the Windows platform and had provided the build specs to at least one OEM, however the Courier quickly turned from an innovative design exercise into an unfortunate metaphor for their inability to compete with Apple.
It made no real sense to me at the time that Microsoft was actually going to build the Courier, however with the announcement of their Surface Tablet, I clearly don’t know shit.
Regardless that Microsoft obsesses about competing with Apple (And Google for that matter) the fact is Microsoft doesn’t compete head to head with Apple, their OEM partners do, such as DELL, Sony and HP. Those same OEMs are are on the Android bandwaggon as a fashonable and low cost alternative to Windows. Faced with flagging consumer relevance and an uncomfortable 3-way with Google, Microsoft clearly had two options, try to woo the channel and win them back from Google, or go head to head, Google style!
Google led the way in Partner-shafting when they formed the Open Handset Alliance to build Andriod powered phones whilst building its own Nexus device to compete with it! But then, Google always seem to struggle with the notion of boundaries. Microsoft, on the other hand, seemed to take a Partner-first approach.
Microsoft is in a sticky spot for sure. I mentioned before that Microsoft could hold its breath for a long time, meaning that it could afford to make short term sacrifices for the long term good, but those old lungs are not what they used to be, which, combined with an astonishing run for Apple, has clearly led to new thinking in Redmond. I can’t see how this is winning.