Microsoft Event Drums Up Major Buzz

Microsoft invited reporters and industry experts this week to a special event on Monday in Los Angeles, where it promises to make a “major” announcement. Since then, speculation has been rampant about exactly what that announcement will be, though Microsoft has not released any further details.

Theories that the announcement will be tablet-related are dominating the conversation at the moment.

“It’s possible the company will show off various models running Windows RT, a version of Windows designed to run off the kind of low-power chips found in smartphones and many popular tablets, like the iPad,” Dana Wollman, senior reviews editor with Engadget, told TechNewsWorld.

The company could be announcing the release of a Microsoft tablet or e-reader, she suggested, “similar to what Amazon did when it unveiled the Kindle Fire. Personally, this seems like the most plausible option. This would be an unprecedented move for Microsoft, and it would warrant its own press conference. I can’t really see the company holding a separate event to show off Windows RT tablets, when it could have easily done that at Computex last week, where Windows 8 devices dominated the show.”

Some have postulated Microsoft could use the event to reveal its ARM-powered tablets, but Mary Jo Foley, editor of the All About Microsoft blog on ZDNet, doesn’t think this will be their “big reveal.”

“It’s too early, and they are too unstable,” she told TechNewsWorld, “though I wouldn’t be surprised to see a demo of Xbox-branded services running on a Windows RT — aka a Windows on ARM — prototype tablet.”

Entertaining Ideas

Another dominant theory is that Microsoft could be making an entertainment-related announcement, particularly since the event will take place in Los Angeles.

“I think Microsoft is going to announce something around their entertainment services strategy on Monday,” said Foley. “This will most likely involve partners and Microsoft’s own Xbox-centric services. I figure Xbox Music and Xbox Video — the renamed and revamped Zune services, will figure in whatever is announced. If this comes to pass, Microsoft will no doubt show how these new Microsoft and third-party services can run on three screens: phones, tablets and Xbox console/TV.”

Hulu has entered into the conversation, with Brier Dudley at The Seattle Times originally theorizing that Microsoft will announce that it’s buying Hulu outright. He’s since backed away from that hypothesis, but he emphasized that Microsoft does need to reevaluate its place in the entertainment realm.

“I speculated that Microsoft may be buying Hulu, but a good source finally told me that’s not the case,” Dudley told TechNewsWorld. “I still think it’s worth discussing what Microsoft needs to do with entertainment apps and services on its platform.”

A Microsoft purchase of Hulu is doubtful, said Foley — but a partnership of some kind between the two might be in the works.

Hulu is based in L.A., she noted, “and they have deals already with a number of other Microsoft partners.”

Shrouded in Secrecy

Microsoft continues to be mute regarding any specifics about the event, and it did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

“It is obvious that this level of mystery is helping generate some intense interest in the announcement,” said Wollman.

Microsoft may be taking a cue from that other company known for big, dramatic announcements: Apple.

“They want to be Apple,” said Foley. “They have a huge case of Apple envy across all their business units.”

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