Steve Ballmer couldn't choose between Courier and Windows and needed Bill Gates to step in, according to CNET's sources within Microsoft. CNET says that a good deal of infighting occurred between the Courier group led by Xbox creator J Allard and the Windows group led by Steven Sinofsky, and that Gates opposed Courier for not aligning with Microsoft's cash-generating Windows and Office software. Allard reportedly told Gates that an email client wasn't needed for the tablet and that its focus was on content creation, to which "Bill had an allergic reaction." Courier was canceled, and Allard announced his departure from Microsoft a few months later — although he insists Courier's demise wasn't to blame.
Courier was never officially announced as a Microsoft product, but the leaked concept was adored by onlookers for its incredibly novel approach to tablet computing. CNET says that the phrase "Free Create" was a centerpiece of the Courier mission, and that it represented "a natural way to digitally write, sketch, and gather inspiration" with the combination of pen, touch, and the simple book-like format — a far cry from what Microsoft had been doing with Windows tablets, and even from what it's built with the vastly more touch-friendly Windows 8.
It's good to know that despite the meddling of the CEO emeritus, innovation is alive and well at Microsoft — we're hoping that Courier's legacy pushes Microsoft closer to becoming the consumer-focused company it really wants to be.