The biggest buzz in technology last week was generated by … Microsoft!
Yes, Microsoft’s announcement about their latest PCs, Microsoft Surface, was the talkoff the tech community, including Apple-like secrecy and hype.
In an attempt to gain Apple-like buzz, Microsoft has developed their own hardware in secret, sent out cryptic invitations to the press for the unveiling, and declined to reveal the actual venue of the reveal until just hours before the event. And it worked . . . every blogger and analyst has weighed in on their opinion of Microsoft’s Surface PCs.
Most interesting were the numerous “hands on” reviews from attendees of the event, who really stretched the meaning of the term “hands on”. Turns out that those doing the “hands on” reviews DID get to touch the new devices, but that’s about it. The devices they were allowed to handle were turned off, and those amazing keyboards-in-a-cover that everyone was raving about, well the “hands on” for those were limited to keyboards that were not attached to working devices.
Says Danny Sullivan, writing for Marketing Land, ”No journalist seems to have really used any of these at the launch event. None of the hands-on reviews that I’ve read, having been in that room and toured the stations, have anything that reflects any real hands-on activity to me. There’s plenty of careful photography that can give the impression that hands-on was going on.”
It’s obvious that the devices shown were prototypes, not nearly ready for prime time, and Microsoft said they will be releases along with Windows 8, estimated for release in October/November of this year.
So why the early announcement?
Some analysts think this is a classic Microsoft strategy, pre-announce an unreleased product and attempt to freeze the market until the product is released. Most analysts believe that this strategy won’t work with consumers interested in tablets like the iPad, so who were they targeting this announcement?
David Morgenstern, writing for ZDNet, says that “by announcing the devices well in advance, Microsoft hopes to stop the market for the iPad and MacBook in the enterprise market”.
The theory is that if Microsoft can provide I.T. departments and CIOs a user-friendly tablet with a keyboard, and include the security and management tools that they are already familiar with using to manage their exsiting PCs, enterprise buyers will hold off on iPad purchases and this will stop the iPad’s momentum in the enterprise and provide an opportunity for Microsoft to stem the tide of the BYOD movement.
It’s an interesting theory, but Microsoft’s inability to demo working units with compelling applications for the enterprise may backfire and result in their losing the buzz that they so carefully crafted. Assuming they are able to release the Surface PC in conjunction with the release of Windows 8, four to five months will seem like a lifetime and there will likely be new announcements from Apple and Google that will feed the hype machine.