Did Microsoft figure out how to beat the WWDC keynote?
WWDC is a media monster. When the once-a-year Apple conference fires up, it’s all WWDC all the time on the Internet, especially in the Apple-centric corners. For years, companies have tried to take the wind out of the Apple keynote sails by revealing similar—and usually half-baked—products mere days before. The same phenomenon occurs with other rumored Apple announcements (the HP Slate just ahead of the iPad comes to mind). Does it ever work? Not yet, it hasn’t.
This year, Google took a crack at sapping some life from the then upcoming iOS 6 Maps announcement. The presentation was haphazard, rushed, and seemed more than a little obvious. Then along came the Apple announcements which overshadowed any press buzz Google might have gained.
Last week though, Microsoft announced its new Surface tablets. Sure, no one could use them (including the presenters), and sure, there’s no real release date, but it is difficult to deny that Microsoft made at least one really good move in announcing the Surface: they successfully muted the echoes of WWDC.
Most years, the reveals from Apple’s conference dominate the news cycle for at least a week after the conference ends. This year, Microsoft came along with little more than a promotional video and leapfrogged the Retina MBP, Mountain Lion, and iOS 6 (in the news sense, not the technical sense).
Now, I say muted because Surface certainly didn’t silence all residual WWDC discussion. But which was more effective? Slate before or Surface after? Google Maps before or Keyboard Covers after? Whether the devices turn out to be successful in the market will depend on too many factors to anticipate; however, the impact on Apple’s WWDC news lifespan is tough to deny.
It’s a subtle victory and an important one if Surface is truly Microsoft’s long term strategy against the iPad. A single flashy release will have almost no impact on Apple or its products, while a slow accumulation of small defeats where the company is strongest could make a significant impact, bringing Microsoft once again back to equal cultural-consciousness footing with Apple.