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After catching a glimpse of Microsoft’s intriguing Courier device last fall — a dual screen multitouch and pen-based digital booklet — we’ve heard little about it. Now Engadget is reporting on new Courier pictures and details which bring the device one step closer to reality.

The Courier is being positioned as a “digital journal” (instead of a generic multifunctional tablet device), and it’s said to be incredibly portable. According to Engadget, it weighs a bit over a pound, is less than an inch thick, and it’s slightly bigger than a 5×7 photo when closed. It’s also apparently running nVidia’s Tegra 2 chip — which allows for lots of computing power with low battery usage — and is running the same operating system as the Zune HD and Windows Phone 7 Series.

Recapping what we’ve learned previously: The device focuses on pen-based input (it includes built-in handwriting recognition) and multitouch functionality. You’ll be able to publish notes to a blog-like page directly from the device, and it includes a camera and headphone jack. Courier is apparently being positioned as Microsoft’s e-book device as well — which honestly makes complete sense given its booklet form factor.

As someone who wasn’t completely wowed by the iPad, I’m finding myself fascinated by the Courier. It seems to be one of those rare situations where Microsoft may actually be innovating instead of copying its competitors. I can also picture relying on this device as an integral tool in my digital arsenal. It’s more portable than the iPad (and similarly-sized tablets), and it appears to be better suited for jotting down notes than a smartphone or laptop.

Courier could also be a lifesaver for students, who would be able to better organize their notes than on paper, and also jot down formulas and figures more easily than on a laptop or netbook. If Microsoft is smart, it would also include some implementation of its incredibly useful OneNote Office application.

Many of us hoped that Microsoft would unveil the Courier at CES this past January, but instead the company showed off the underwhelming HP Slate. For now, all we know about the Courier’s relase is that it may launch sometime in the third or fourth quarter of this year.

Check out more Courier interface shots at Engadget’s gallery.

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