Microsoft Tries to Out-Apple Apple


The tech blogosphere buzzed on June 18, when Microsoft led a cryptic media relations strategy leading up to its planned late-afternoon announcement. 

"This will be a major Microsoft announcement—you will not want to miss it," the company said in an e-mail invite to the media on June 14, reported the Los Angeles Times. And that's all it said. The tactic immediately drew comparisons by the media to Apple and its product unveiling strategy.  

A company spokesman declined to comment further to the Times, and Microsoft tried to create an even bigger aura of mystery by declining to provide the event's location until Monday afternoon, and never even hinted at what would be discussed, much less unveiled. 

Invitations were non-transferable, and photo opportunities would be limited, Microsoft said. Later in the afternoon, Milk Studios in Hollywood was named as the event locale, leading some media, according to the New York Times, to speculate that whatever the announcement is would be ac­com­pa­nied by a push in­to en­ter­tain­ment.

"If you wrap Apple-level mystery around a non-Apple level product, all anyone will talk about after the event is the ridiculousness of it all," wrote Mashable's Chris Taylor prior to the event. "As much as Apple goes out of its way to amp up expectation, it understands that you have to have something insanely cool under those wraps to justify the hype." 

It's fitting then, that Microsoft unveiled a tab­let com­puter called Sur­face that is in­tend­ed to chal­lenge Ap­ple’s iPad. The device is about the same weight and thick­ness as an iPad, with a 10.6-inch screen. It will run a vari­a­tion of Win­dows 8, the company's next software platform with a rumored fall 2012 release. It has a built-in “kick­stand” that al­lows it to be propped up for watch­ing movies a thin de­tach­able cov­er that will serve dou­ble du­ty as a key­board.

Apple has built cachet over the past several years by delivering innovative products that appeal to consumers, while Microsoft has largely come up short in that department. Whether the Surface will be "insanely cool," as Mashable's Taylor puts it, and can match the overall coolness of the Apple brand remains to be seen. If the Surface doesn't meet those standards, Microsoft will have left itself open to media accusations of simply crying wolf for attention—something the company should keep in mind leading up to its release of Windows 8.  

Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg