Image: Microsoft Courier booklet prototype
Gizmodo.com
This photo of a prototype of Microsoft's tablet was leaked to Gizmodo.com. Appearing more like an e-reader, the tablet has two screens and uses touch as well as a stylus.
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msnbc.com
updated 9/22/2009 9:53:15 PM ET 2009-09-23T01:53:15

Photos and video of a prototype tablet reportedly being worked on by Microsoft were leaked Tuesday to Gizmodo.com, and if the prototype becomes a reality, it could be quite an impressive device. (Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

The tablet shown on the site has dual, multi-touch 7-inch screens that use both touch as well as a stylus for input and writing, and resembles an e-reader more than a computer. Microsoft could not be reached for comment about the photos or the device, which reportedly is called "Courier."

Several Web sites noted that if the Microsoft tablet is indeed a near reality, the software giant may beat Apple to the finish line for releasing such a device.

Apple, with its highly successful line of notebook computers, has been loathe to enter the netbook arena of smaller laptops, but indications are the company is working on a tablet.

The Courier, said Matt Buchanan, Gizmodo.com contributing editor, is more of a booklet than a tablet in appearance. "Instead of pages, there are screens and it folds up like a booklet," he said in an interview.

The reported prototype appears to have the kind of sleekness and ease of use that "people have been waiting for."

"Microsoft is working on the user interface now; it's in the early phase of development,"  he said. "There's definitely been a lot of thought that's gone into the user interface. This isn't something that was hastily thrown together."

The video, shared on Gizmodo's site, shows that the tablet's "interface is really fluid and really fast," said Buchanan. He said he does not know whether it uses the Windows 7 operating system, due out Oct. 22, or Windows Mobile for smartphones — or either.

Meanwhile, CNET.com columnist Ina Fried wrote that "sources say it's legit, but I'm hearing that it's just one of several prototypes that has been cooked up as part of a skunkworks project being led by executive J Allard and a small team of 'Softies.

"Microsoft has been trying to keep Allard's work under wraps — even locating Allard's team well away from the rest of Microsoft's main Redmond campus," Fried wrote. "Until it was shown by Gizmodo, not only was Courier's existence a surprise to many outside Redmond, few inside the company were aware of it either."

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