updated 08:15 pm EDT, Tue September 22, 2009
Microsoft Courier tablet
Microsoft this evening preempted its arch-rival Apple in the tablet game with the Courier, its own self-developed tablet. The rough example discussed at the Gizmodo Gallery event is shaped like a book and has two 7-inch multi-touch displays that fold up when the system isn't in use. It would also support a stylus for handwriting and include a 3-megapixel camera on the back. While not yet certain for final production, Microsoft also suggests that the Courier might use inductive charging to power the device without having to plug it in.
The operating system choice isn't clear, but its interface is closer to that of the highly visual Zune HD rather than a straightforward use of Windows 7's multi-touch abilities. It notably uses the hinge area as an interface element that has both the home button as well as a virtual storage space for items being swapped from display to display.
Outside of these, the company will so far only say the system is a "late prototype" and hasn't committed to a specific release date or full technical details. However, the Courier does confirm rumors of a J Allard-developed tablet at the company that would borrow his expertise with the Xbox and Zune as well as elements of the Surface team.
The unveiling puts pressure on Apple, which is rumored to have its own tablet in February with a custom-developed ARM processor, built-in 3G and at least one 9.7-inch multi-touch display. Apple's product is rumored to focus heavily on media playback with a variant of the iPhone OS rather than Mac OS X.