Microsoft’s Mystery Miracle

Microsoft this week achieved something that has thoroughly eluded it for decades: actual excitement. After sending out a mysterious invitation to virtually everyone on Earth with even the most tenuous of tech press credentials—sort of the opposite of the “exclusive” event it claimed—the software giant has found itself at the center of an incredible and frankly unprecedented wave of interest. What, exactly, is Microsoft going to announce today in Los Angeles?

Who cares?

Honestly, whatever Microsoft announces, it’s not going to change anything. If it’s a Microsoft- or Xbox-branded tablet, as many expect, it will probably make as much of a dent in that market as the Zune did in the MP3 player market. Ditto if it’s an Xbox entertainment services announcement, as I first expected, given the location of the invitation: Zune Marketplace and Music Pass never threatened iTunes for a second.

What I’m more interested in here is why this announcement has generated so much interest. It just doesn’t make any sense.

And yes, I was invited to attend the mysterious announcement. Heck, everyone was.

“You are invited to an exclusive Microsoft media event in Los Angeles, California, on Monday, June 18th,” the invitation reads. “This is a … non-transferrable … invitation-only event. Registration will be first-come, first-served. This will be a major Microsoft announcement—you will not want to miss it.”

Speculation about this event has continued unabated since late last week. I’ve received three invitations from others in the media to simply speculate about what it is that Microsoft will announce, a situation that suggests it actually matters what Microsoft announces. I find this confusing.

Everyone in the tech press, tech bloggers, and even mainstream media have gotten in on the game. No one actually knows what Microsoft will announce, but everyone is ready to offer up an opinion with varying degrees of certainty. Twitter has exploded with speculation about the event, and my email Inbox has been piling up with questions since Friday.

Again, why?

Let’s say Microsoft announces a Windows 8 or Windows RT tablet. So instead of 87 hardware-maker partners selling these devices, we’ll have 88, one of which will offer a “Microsoft Signature” experience. If you don’t know what Signature is, you’re not alone: Microsoft actually already sells PCs through its retail and online stores. And since you don’t know or care about Signature, never cared about Zune, and really couldn’t care less about yet another ebook reader—another commonly suggested possibility—then it’s unclear why this announcement matters in the slightest.

By achieving a curiously and unexpectedly Apple-like level of excitement for an announcement that, let’s face it, could end up being of no import at all, Microsoft is setting itself up to fail. Maybe not today, but down the road since its future announcements will never live up to this hype. But why wouldn’t Microsoft want to replicate this wonderful, giddy, successful event again and again and again? Microsoft is many things, but it loves to beat a good idea to death.

Yes, I’m curious about what Microsoft will announce today, but then I’ve been following this company for two decades. I don’t get why most of the people who are excited and sitting on the edge of their seats are interested at all, I really don’t.

TAGS: Windows 8
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