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6/28/2007
11:45 AM
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Why Apple-Style Secrecy Won't Work For Microsoft

One of the hallmarks of Apple's current cachet, along with pure stylishness, is its secrecy. Products don't get announced until very close to release date, features sometimes even later, and Apple's public relations department isn't exactly the most open. Apple's caginess certainly breeds intrigue, but it wouldn't work as a corporate policy at a place like Microsoft.

One of the hallmarks of Apple's current cachet, along with pure stylishness, is its secrecy. Products don't get announced until very close to release date, features sometimes even later, and Apple's public relations department isn't exactly the most open. Apple's caginess certainly breeds intrigue, but it wouldn't work as a corporate policy at a place like Microsoft.Robert Scoble says he's hearing from people on the Windows team that Microsoft senior VP Steven Sinofsky "has made it clear he doesn't want anyone talking about the next version of Windows." I know I haven't been getting any info at all, other than a few tiny leaks, and Microsoft hasn't even been up front about Vista SP1. The next version of Internet Explorer generally carries a similar burden.

The lack of chatter on the next version of Windows may be fine for now -- the Vista team talked too soon and some features ended up being removed, and people are just now beginning the shift to Vista -- but sooner or later, somebody's going to have to start talking. And I'm not just saying that because my reporter instincts tell me the more information, the faster it gets to me, the better.

The need for info on Windows is especially pertinent if Microsoft is serious about releasing Windows Seven/Vienna in 2009 as planned. That's two years off. Remember, Vista nee Longhorn chatter already was heavy two years before its release.

Apple can get away with it. It has a relatively tiny portion of the PC marketplace and its vertical integration -- most things on an Apple are still Apple -- means there aren't as many software and hardware vendors relying on specs. Apple can just release the iPhone and iPod as is, and Mac OS X isn't as vital for as many business customers and vendors as Windows. Microsoft, on the other hand, has a massive installed base and a massive partner ecosystem. Hardware and software vendors rely on it to spec out their own products. Beta testing programs seem to be getting larger and more important for Microsoft for solving problems before the first service pack hits.

People want and even need to know what Microsoft is up to, and they're starting to complain about the fact that they can't get their hands on anything about Internet Explorer 8 and Windows Vista SP1. That should be something from which to learn.

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