Microsoft Courier's Devolution

These fresh images and details of Microsoft's Courier paint a slightly different device than the one uncovered a few months ago—tinier seeming, perhaps less genre-busting, and a more direct iPad fighter.

Microsoft Courier's Devolution

This take is built on the same mobile OS core as Windows Phone 7 and Zune HD, powered by Nvidia's Tegra 2 hardware. It's supposedly thinner than an inch, under a pound, and about the size of a 5x7 photo when closed.

As you can see, the device seems even smaller (Update: maybe not), the interface, though still pen-based, seems less whizzy based on these stills than the wildly complex and sophisticated (or maybe just complex) interface shown earlier:

Is Courier progressing or regressing? It's hard to tell—we're not sure where in Courier's development these concepts are from vs. our initial reportage. But if they are newer, a few things stand out.

• Courier's grown to be more realstic and less different, which is not uncommon for mind-bogglingly radical-seeming products. (Our mind was blown by the original interface, anyway, for better or worse.)

• Shifting from using Windows 7 as its core as Mary Jo Foley first reported to Windows CE6 and mobile guts puts it more squarely against the iPad, using a similar philosophical approach of scaling up to a tablet, vs. scaling down as Microsoft's always done before. (Which makes sense, given that this is supposedly J. Allard's project—he'd want to use E&D's own goods to power his tablet.) Also, mobile guts are cheaper than low-power laptop guts.

• This could be one of the several prototype tablets J. Allard's got—which would explain why there's versions that seem more like full Windows 7 vs. Windows Phone 7.

• Engadget pegs the launch date later this year, though we've heard separately that Courier won't show up anytime in 2010.

• We're still pretty excited.

[Engadget]