Well was pointed in the direction of an article over at CNET which presented the reasonings to why courier wasn't made and some other tidbits, figured I'd pull bits out of the article that I found rather interesting,
"Courier users wouldn't want or need a feature-rich e-mail application such as Microsoft's Outlook that lets them switch to conversation views in their inbox or support offline e-mail reading and writing. The key to Courier, Allard's team argued, was its focus on content creation. Courier was for the creative set, a gadget on which architects might begin to sketch building plans, or writers might begin to draft documents."
This is really a strange market for the fact that its such a niche. It's probably better to build a tablet that was capable of being able to cater to multiple markets and being therefore able to adapt to whatever task needed. Whether a business man wanted to use it or a savvy tech geek, neither of these should really be pushed away from a tablet because its primary focus is to architects and the like. This is the key problem I think was with Courier was that its target market wasn't broad enough and it wasn't aiming high enough. Ok fine, it was a tablet that represented a book and a pen that we all know and love but digitally evolved, this doesn't mean that it should be limited in any shape or form.
"Designers working on Courier came up with clever notions for how digital paper should work. One of the ideas was to create "smart ink," giving text, for example, mathematical properties. So when a user wrote "5+8=" on, say, digital graph paper, the number "13" would fill in the equation automatically. Additionally, if users selected lined digital paper, words would snap to each line as they were jotted down"
This is pretty damn awesome, I have to say that if Microsoft did make the courier I'd totally buy one just to take a feel of the experience and even potentially compliment the iPad which does note taking well but Courier was a tablet that would've been specifically built from the philosophy of note taking in many respects.
"While the software prototypes ran on existing tablet PCs built by Microsoft's partners, they didn't meet the performance goals for Courier. So Allard's team also worked with several hardware makers, including Samsung, to create hardware prototypes.
"It was not off-the-shelf tech," said a Courier team member. "There is no commercial product today that meets the specs we had for it. It was highly demanding and innovative and no one partner had all of the pieces."
"When Courier died, there was not a single prototype that contained all of the attributes of the vision: the industrial design, the screen performance, the software experience, the correct weight, and the battery life. Those existed individually, created in parallel to keep the development process moving quickly. Those prototypes wouldn't have come together into a single unit until very late in the development process, perhaps weeks before manufacturing, which is common for cutting-edge consumer electronics design. But on the team, there was little doubt that they were moving quickly toward that final prototype."
This is what I found to be one of the craziest things ever for a company to do in terms of development. There was a prototype for each awesome bit, so one had an amazing screen, another battery and so on. The final product would be what they prayed worked well together right before they pushed it out which makes my first point about buying it seem rather a stupid idea right now. The iPad is built with all teams working together, each team knows their exact job and they know the what the final product needs to be like, with that said as the final product is created things are tweaked. Yes multiple prototypes are made but each prototype isn't anything close to how Microsoft ran the Courier project. It was built with each prototype using the same battery, screen and so forth that the final product would use, essentially it would be good enough to send to the manufacturers and say 'this is the product. make it'. This is how a prototype of the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and other prototypes that were spotted in the wild arose. It's why when the form factor is spotted in the wild its more then likely that is a prototype with all the bits and pieces most other prototypes would have. This is where Microsoft fails at products is because their teams don't work together and I think even the XBOX is probably the only product that has done successfully, after Windows, and survived this long. Courier got the axe and the Microsoft tablets that use to be had well before the iPad were absolutely rubbish.
But hey, each company has their faults and brilliances but I do believe just like Blackberry, Microsoft is slowly slipping and HP even itself needs to pick up its game. These companies are focusing on following rather than innovating. This is the key problem in the industry and why Apple's products are so successful. Its why I'm a lover of all things Apple. It just works. Its made to work. It has a Sci-Fi quality to it and hell Apple has some pretty crazy Sci-Fi stuff probably down in their vaults. So click the link if you want to see the rest of the article but the bare facts are above. They had not decided well enough where they were going with this product and how to build a hardware product on their own. When these companies learn to do so and do so well, we'll be seeing some amazing competition and therefore amazing products.