How Microsoft Learned The Rumor Game From Apple

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Looking to (stealing from?) Apple, Microsoft went for a super-secret approach to its tablet launch and it's still paying off, with the Surface dominating today's tech rumor news. Apple, of course, has perfected the rumor game, keeping its name in the press all year long as the techies discuss "sourced" reports of Apple's upcoming products. Since Monday, Microsoft has been getting all the attention, with tech whisperers picking apart a few possibly, but probably not true, tidbits about the just announced Surface tablet. Will it have just WiFi? Someone secret said it might cost $599. And what's this we hear about poor battery life? First a tablet, next a smartphone? Like Apple rumors, these come from "anonymous sources," and are to be taken as nothing more than hearsay. But, for Microsoft, it doesn't matter if these rumors or true or not: The company wins as long as these rumors exist and the Surface is on the top of everybody's news feed.

Microsoft's approach differed from Apple's in one respect: Apple keeps its products secret, letting the rumorers salivate over any crumb of "sourced" data until it announces some event, which only gets them churning even faster. Once it delivers the actual device, the rumors stop and the analysis starts. Apple can sustain this system because as soon as it discloses one iGadget, we know we have another one on the way. And the rumors pick up again. Without years of products to fall back on, Microsoft didn't have months of pre-product release talk to get people buzzing. It got a few days worth of speculation, when it sent out cryptic invites to a Los Angeles event four days in advance. But, to keep us interested until that annoying undisclosed release date, Microsoft left out some key details. Though many did not appreciate the lack of important information, the move has gotten the techies talking to their "insider sources," which has gotten the rest of the tech blogger world blogging -- even if its about stuff that probably will turn out false

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In doing this, however, Microsoft has trumped Apple at its own hype game. It's not that the techies can't talk about multiple toys at once, but one will inevitably get blogged louder. Someone somewhere is talking about the rumored Apple TV or maybe even the iPhone 5, but not as much as they're talking about the Surface. Apple didn't used to have gadget competition from Microsoft. It does now. And, at least for today, Microsoft is winning the game.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.