It is time for a pen-first Microsoft operating system (and it should be open source)

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On the eve of launch of the latest generation of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 we are reminded once again of Microsoft’s failed Courier project, which was one of the first to propose a pen-first operating system.

At the time the project was cancelled as Microsoft was not convinced that the user interface was productivity-focussed enough, and it may therefore still be a poor fit for today’s Microsoft.

As a reminder to our readers, see the Courier concept video below.

The pen however remains a powerful user interface paradigm, particularly when combined with touch, allowing both high precision work and for creative flair, and doubling the number of modes of interaction a user can have with a touch screen. Given that for work the pen preceded the keyboard and mouse clearly anything that can be done with one can be done with the other.

We are soon to be to see a paradigm shift in computing with the introduction of smartphones and tablets flexible screens.

flexible screen

Of course Microsoft has been adding more and more pen features to their Surface tablets, but due to the features being tacked on they tend to be rarely used. An operating system like the Courier above would place then pen at the centre of a user’s interaction with apps and the internet and allow the full potential of the paradigm to develop.

work concept

Even Microsoft’s own concept videos of the future (below) show operating systems with a natural user interface with pen and fingers, but this future will not happen (at least not from Microsoft) if they do not start shipping devices first.

Of course the market for such a radical departure from the WIMP user interface will initially be small, which is why it should be Microsoft’s first open source operating system, running as a layer on Windows 10. Being open source it would be somewhat resistant to a sudden change of direction by Microsoft, it would not be dependent on special hardware and distribution channels, and would be more responsive to the needs and desires of its user community, and would hopefully develop quicker than Microsoft’s normally slow cycle.

Do our readers agree that for Microsoft to grab some mind share they need to start moving beyond the tile and desktop interface and start shipping the future that their videos have been promising us for so long? Let us know below.

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