Microsoft Hints Fan Origami Project Buzz - InformationWeek

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Microsoft Hints Fan Origami Project Buzz

The company is hyping the project--which some think might be a handheld device to watch video, among other things--but is releasing no details. The building buzz has sparked some concern that expectations may greatly surpass the product's capabilities.

Microsoft Corp. on Thursday fueled the buzz on its Origami Project by offering more hints in the unusual marketing campaign for the software giant.

The Redmond, Wash., company launched the Origami Web site last week, saying something was coming, but giving no details. On Thursday, the site's cryptic message showed images of a city, tropical island, mountains, a subway and a car on a highway; and said, "Wonder where to find me? I am here, and here, way up here, and down here, even here. I am everywhere you are, but never in the way."

The pitch ends with the promise of answering the question, "Who am I?" next Thursday.

Soon after the site's launch last week, a year-old Microsoft video that circulated the Internet indicated Origami could be some type of wireless computer with a touch screen.

The film showed people using a handheld computer to watch video, access the Web, send pictures and instant messages and play videogames, all over a wireless connection. The video was found on the site of production firm Digital Kitchen. Microsoft later issued a statement saying that Origami at that stage was a concept it had been working on with partners, and offered no other details.

The current marketing campaign is unique for Microsoft, which often unveils products before they ship, but seldom, if ever, in a way meant to generate buzz through secrecy, analysts say. Such viral marketing is a tactic used by Apple Computer Inc.

"It may not be the first time for Microsoft, but it's certainly a very, very different approach from what they've taken in the past," Michael Gartenberg, analyst for JupiterResearch, said. "It'll be interesting to see how this product is marketed (following its official announcement), and how it' going to be positioned in the marketplace."

Also, Microsoft has managed to keep the project under wraps, which is very unusual for the company. With so many manufacturing and software partners, word of new products usually leaks well in advance.

"Microsoft has been able to keep this product secret for a year," Gartenberg said. "For Microsoft, that's absolutely incredible."

Indeed, the building Origami buzz has sparked some concern that expectations may greatly surpass the products capabilities. Robert Scoble, Microsoft tech evangelist, warned that speculation on the Web might go too far.

"Seriously, let's keep our hype in check, OK?" Scoble wrote in his blog.

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