Will Microsoft follow Apple and revert to its former disclosure playbook?

Will Microsoft follow Apple and revert to its former disclosure playbook?

Summary: Apple is trying a 'new' disclosure tact with its latest Mac OS X release. Will Microsoft follow suit with Windows, going forward?

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Warning: This is an insider baseball kind of post. But I'm writing it because I believe disclosure policies have a lot to do with perception and reception of products from Microsoft and other companies.

Much is being made of how Apple decided to "think different" in how it disclosed information about its "Mountain Lion" Mac OS X update on February 16. Instead of holding the typical, orchestrated "big reveal," Apple officials hand-picked a few key bloggers and journalists and put them under non-disclosure about its Mountain Lion plans.

Hey, that sounds kind of familiar... as well it should. This is how Microsoft used to disclose information about Windows back in the day. But then, starting with Windows 7 and accelerating with Windows 8, Microsoft started to try to be more like Apple. The hope was that by holding information closer to the vest and then announcing it to the world with a "ta-da!" that Microsoft would get more love, a la Apple.

At Build, where Microsoft unveiled the Windows 8 Developer Preview in September, for example, Microsoft held a one-day prebrief for about 100 select journalists and analysts. All of us who were invited got a 24-hour headstart on dissecting the bits and the background on the Developer Preview. But there weren't the individual, earlier one-on-one Q&A/deep dive meetings beforehand, like the Windows client team used to do with XP, Vista, etc. The day after the media prebrief, Microsoft rolled out the Developer Preview information and bits to the thousands of developers attending Build and watching it via Webcast.

Microsoft is planning its next mass big-reveal on February 29, when it launches the Consumer Preview of Windows 8. Unfortunately, from what I've heard recently, there won't be a live Webcast of this event. So if you weren't already signed up to attend the Mobile World Congress show, you're not going to get to see what transpires there in real time. You'll just have to download the bits whenever they become available.

(By the way, Microsoft is not commenting as to whether the Consumer Preview bits will be out on February 29, before that date, or after that date. I asked. Microsoft also is declining to say whether there will be a "beta" refresh of the Windows Server 8 bits at the same time as the Consumer Preview is out.)

I'm betting Microsoft might hand pick a few reviewers to get the Consumer Preview bits ahead of time, but not because the company is shifting its disclosure strategy. I believe the decision to launch the Consumer Preview in Barcelona was a last-minute decision on Microsoft's part and has resulted in many of the folks who normally review Windows not planning to be in attendance at what's largely a smartphone show.

The bigger question for me in all this is whether the Windows team may follow Apple's PR lead and decide to revert back to its old Windows PR playbook now that Apple seemingly is going the one-on-one prebrief route. I think doing so would make for more informed and thoughtful coverage of what's happening with Windows 8 instead of lots of knee-jerk, under-the-gun write-ups. The bigger question is whether it would give the Softies more bang for their PR buck and generate more developer, customer and partner understanding and excitement?

Topics: Apple, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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22 comments
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  • Tack left

    Somebody call the tact police.
    Robert Hahn
  • I guess we'll find out

    It does appear to be a temptation to use access as a means of imposing "party discipline" on reviewers and other journalists. Let us hope that MS doesn't succumb to this vicious practice.
    John L. Ries
  • Why should Microsoft 'follow' anyone's lead?

    They're a huge company full of smart people, why not do what they want to the way they want to without regard to what Apple or anyone else is doing?
    HollywoodDog
  • 'A few key bloggers'

    In other words they were rewarded for their continued praise of Apple products?
    William Farrel
    • RE: Will Microsoft follow Apple and revert to its former disclosure playbook?

      @William Farrel - That is the trouble with any company giving a prebrief, though. They are more likely to select journalists/bloggers who will write favorably about the product than those that will be more critical.
      hsteinhilber
    • RE: Will Microsoft follow Apple and revert to its former disclosure playbook?

      @William Farrel

      Well, it's better than bribing them with free laptops.
      Claverhouse
  • I think Gruber got it right.

    While this was a bit of a change, it's really a 1-1 product event that otherwise would have been held at Yerba Buena in front of 300 invited press and tech bloggers. However, since Apple just had a big event for iBooks and will likely have an iPad extravaganza in March, this announcement, being really just an early dev preview, needed a different approach. Look for Apple to go back to it's usual event style next month <b>and</b> when Mountain Lion gets its proper debut at WWDC.
    matthew_maurice
    • Tend to agree

      @matthew_maurice

      Likewise, these briefings were not with the OS X Client team but with very high level executives. The presentation without the event. Having read about some of the previous Windows one on ones, this sounded only slightly similar. Not really Q&A just presentation.
      Bruizer
  • It's not "tact", it's "tack"

    "Apple is trying a ???new??? disclosure tact..."

    You mean "tack".
    Win8AnUglyDisaster
    • RE: Will Microsoft follow Apple and revert to its former disclosure playbook?

      @johndow1 Tact is correct. It's short for "tactic"
      copenhavert
      • RE: Will Microsoft follow Apple and revert to its former disclosure playbook?

        @copenhavert Tact is NOT short for tactic. Tact means basically watching what you say or do so not to piss people off - nothing to do with tactic.

        so in other words Tack does work, Tact does NOT work.
        Djblois
      • RE: Will Microsoft follow Apple and revert to its former disclosure playbook?

        double post
        Djblois
  • RE: Will Microsoft follow Apple and revert to its former disclosure playbook?

    MJF,

    Uhmmm sounds just a little bit whiney... and here is the really sad part of it.. if Apple pre-announces its called being transparent, If Microsoft does it.. its called FUD.

    Either MJF/Bott/Thurrott are whining.. or the aapl fanbois are crying FUD.. no win for MS either way.. Personally.. I think news only when there's news is not all a bad thing... ;)
    waycoolkennel
    • Call it "patronage"

      @waycoolkennel <br>It's not really much different than how political bosses have maintained their influence for the past three centuries: the boss does favors for those who do his bidding and withholds favor from those who don't.<br><br>In this case, favorable news coverage is rewarded with special access.
      John L. Ries
    • RE: Will Microsoft follow Apple and revert to its former disclosure playbook?

      @waycoolkennel
      I agree completely. I'm really getting tired of all the MS/Apple comparisons. C'mon...is this all there is to do. It would be fine if it wasn't so biased but it is always, "MS could do what Apple does.... , or Apple is again ahead of MS because..., or MS's approach is too Apple like." Apple wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for MS bailing them out way back. Plus most of Apple's product's use MS software. ActiveSync anyone?! Overall Apple is Apple and MS is MS. The only reason why Apple is as good as they are is because they control all aspects of their hardware and software. Let MS do the same and we wouldn't even have this conversation because Apple might be close to bankruptcy again. The Xbox is the best example of what can happen when MS controls the hardware and software of a product. They WIN, big time. Apple is great for a consumer company, but when it comes time to do work we all turn back to MS. Apple even turns to MS for work. I bet at the old Apple R&D building they have a few MS server clusters and MS PC's for hardware and software testing. Just saying that both are great in their own way. Stop bashing MS already. Very old.
      dw59
  • RE: Will Microsoft follow Apple and revert to its former disclosure playbook?

    I think Microsoft adopted the "Apple" strategy of keeping it close to the vest because they were sick of seeing their announced features show up in Apple products before the Windows release was available. The longer release cycles of Windows compared to the 12-18 month release cycle of OSX really worked to Apples advantage here. For example:
    - Integrated search was shown on Longhorn in an early build. MS stated it would not be avilable in XP. The next major release of OSX had a feature called Spotlight. Vista was delayed and MS backtracked and released an addone for desktop search for XP.
    - Microsoft demoed an early verison of the split keyboard when in horizontal orientation. A few months later, Apple announced iOS5 would have a split keyboard.
    - Microsoft leaks showed that Win8 would have a an app store (liek most mobile platforms). Months later, Apple announces that OSX would have an app store.

    I'm not saying these companies don't borrow ideas from each other, but I think MS is tired of not getting credit for their good ideas. I wish MS would also speed up delivery cycles of major versions.
    frankwick
    • Of course...

      @frankwick
      ...MS was hyping those very same features years before they actually appeared.
      John L. Ries
    • A little bit of revisionist history there.

      @frankwick MS <i>announced</i> the Win 8 App store on 18 Aug. 2011, and has yet to ship it (or Win 8). Apple announced the Mac app store on October 20, 2010 and <b>it was up and running</b> on January 6, 2011, 11 weeks later. Like Steve once said, "real artists ship!"
      matthew_maurice
  • RE: Will Microsoft follow Apple and revert to its former disclosure playbook?

    three newsletters from cnet and what are they about apple. nothing out but apple
    sarai1313@...
  • RE: Will Microsoft follow Apple and revert to its former disclosure playbook?

    Re "Microsoft is not commenting as to whether the Consumer Preview bits will be out on February 29, before that date, or after that date. I asked."

    Surely it can't be AFTER that date, because Sinofsky, in last week's post, said:

    "By the end of the month, the Windows Consumer Preview (the beta) of Windows 8 on x86/64, will be made available for download."

    "The Windows Consumer Preview, the beta of Windows 8 on x86/64, will be available for download by the end of February."
    rseiler