Microsoft's Courier tablet team closes shop

The Pioneer Studios group that created the concept behind the double-sided Courier tablet appears to have closed its Seattle office

The founders of Microsoft’s Pioneer Studios, which created the concept behind the double-sided Courier tablet, have scattered and the group’s office, located in a Seattle neighborhood full of startups, has closed.

The changes come a year after J Allard, Microsoft’s former top designer who is credited with starting Pioneer Studios, left the company.

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Other people who say they were instrumental in starting the group have either left the company or moved into new roles at Microsoft.

The group is no longer occupying the office space in Seattle, Microsoft confirmed Thursday. The office is across town from Microsoft's corporate headquarters in the suburbs.

Georg Petschnigg, a cofounder of Pioneer Studios, says on his LinkedIn profile that he is an "entrepreneur" working on an “undisclosed new venture.” A Microsoft spokeswoman said he is at Microsoft's startup business group.

Petschnigg's profile also says that while working at Pioneer Studios he secured $20 million in funding to develop the Courier product.

The Courier was a unique tablet design that had two screens connected by a hinge and a cutting-edge user interface. Videos showing mock-ups of how it might perform circulated widely online, eliciting excitement based on its unusual capabilities. But not long after the videos surfaced, Microsoft said it had no plans to build the product.

Jonathan Harris also describes himself as a cofounder of Pioneer Studios on his LinkedIn profile. He and Petschnigg co-developed the Courier concept and pitched it to executives at the company, he said. His profile says he is "principle experience director" at Microsoft.

Other former Pioneer Studios workers appear to have either left the company or joined other groups, including the Startup Business Group.

The Microsoft spokeswoman noted that the company has several incubation groups, including FUSE Labs, the Garage and the Hardware Incubation Lab.

Cnet first reported the office closure earlier Thursday.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's email address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com.

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