Microsoft piqued everybody’s interest yesterday by sending out invites to an exclusive media event where the company plans to make a “major announcement.” Microsoft isn’t even telling invitees where the event is happening until Monday morning, the day of the event, let alone betraying even a single clue about what this shindig will be about. With few details about the event, the tech world collectively mused, ‘What can it all mean?’ while taking turns at pinning the tail on the rumor donkey.
The first rumor out there that’s credited to an insider-ish source with Microsoft comes by way of The Wrap, who says that the company will be announcing a brand new Microsoft-made tablet. Considering the competing rumors and speculation that the event would be related to Windows 8 or the acquisition of Yammer or a possible acquisition of a manufacturer of middling smartphones, the notion of Microsoft finally making a move on the tablet market is the most intriguing of the lot.
I asked a Microsoft spokesperson for a comment about the event/announcement but got promptly shut down with this reply: “We do not comment on rumors or speculation.”
If you want to mix and match rumors, one could postulate that an entertainment-centric tablet not too dissimilar to the Kindle Fire could be in Microsoft’s oven.
If this turns out to be the case and Microsoft does roll out its own brand of tablets on Monday, hopefully there will be something novel about the product that will distinguish it from the iPad and all of Google’s Android tablets: a surprising partnership to provide a unique service or some fancy utensil like a next-generation stylus (because in my humble opinion, e-readers will always kind of suck until you can actually write some marginalia on the edge of the screen). If Microsoft really wanted to put Apple and Google on notice, its tablet would include some exclusive integration with its gaming console, Xbox 360, and simultaneously propel the company into the television/video market. Who knows, maybe Bill Gates will come clean and admit that he was the one that sent the Wow! Signal to Earth back when he was traveling through the Paleolithic age, takes a bow, and then vanishes into the future.
Based on nothing more than my personal wishes and a dash of logic, I expect Microsoft’s announcement will involve a new tablet that has some savvy Xbox-integration. Rumors were passed around this past March that Microsoft was experimenting with the idea of a touchscreen-style tablet device for the Xbox 360, so it’s not completely from out of nowhere. Also, with the recent announcement that Microsoft’s Internet Explorer would be arriving on Xbox 360s this fall, a tablet capable of wirelessly synching with the console from anywhere would create a unique internet experience that could boost Microsoft’s market share of online search.
Such a one-two-three combo would certainly work within the entertainment-related speculation as it would combine surfing the web, video, and gaming into a single, must-have device. So make a list and check it twice – an Xbox tablet would be nice.