Oh, Microsoft is so loving this. Yesterday, Microsoft invited selected members of the press to a mystery event in LA on Monday. So, as you might imagine, the techno-blogo-squalkosphere is going wild speculating on what Redmond might have up its sleeve.
Monday evening, post press-conference update: Okay, let me get this straight. Did Microsoft just kill the Windows tablet OEM market?
Our own Mary Jo Foley has been hot on the trail of truth, but all she's come up with so far is more speculation. One idea was an Xbox Music announcement, another was some sort of Smart Glass thing, another was the possible acquisition of Hulu, and even more recently was the idea that Microsoft was going to announce a Kindle-killer tablet.
So, since I have as little information as anyone else, I couldn't resist. I had to get some skin into the baseless prediction game.
My prediction: an Xbox tablet.
Now, don't hold me to this, for I know not of what I speak. But I can speculate with the best of them, so here's my reasoning.
First, Microsoft can't compete against the Kindle Fire because what makes the Kindle Fire great isn't the tablet-ey goodness, it's the Kindle reader software. The rest is just a skeleton you can hold while you buy and read from Amazon.
Second, Microsoft can't compete directly against the iPad because, well, it's the iPad. It's got an enormous app store, it's iconic, and it's a juggernaut of a product.
Third, Microsoft probably wouldn't bring out it's own Windows 8 tablet. First, that's boring. Second, Microsoft really wants to sell Windows RT to all the tablet makers out there, and coming out with a tablet on their own wouldn't really buy them much.
But there is one market where Microsoft is the 800-pound gorilla of cool: the Xbox. Somehow, when Microsoft set out to make a gaming console, they didn't bring the old, shabby, we-can't-even-make-a-cool-logo, we-have-all-the-legacy-of-Windows-to-lug-around ball and chain to the party.
Instead, they somehow grew a full-body, I'm-too-sexy-for-my-shorts set of skilz and came out with the world-beater Xbox console. And they've consistently grown that market, adding the Kinect, and at the recent E3, announcing Smart Glass -- a system where your Xbox goes with you everywhere.
This makes some sense in the guise of the LA announcement location. Microsoft has doubled-down on the Xbox as an entertainment hub, but the one thing the company doesn't really have is a portable Xbox solution.
Oh, sure, they could have Windows Phone 8 for Tablets (fueled by Nokia), but if that were the case, I don't see the announcement in LA or a big magical, mystery tour.
But adding an Xbox-branded tablet (possibly running on Windows RT), and announcing that in LA? That would be exciting.
Now, to be fair, Microsoft really only lets "the exciting" out of its cage once a decade or so, but it's time. The first Xbox was let loose in November 2001. A decade has passed, so it's time to free another beast.
My prediction, therefore, is an Xbox tablet, priced at $299, able to run downloadable Xbox arcade games, driven by Xbox live, and fully integrated with SmartGlass.
Of course, since I'm making all this up, I could be wrong. We'll all know on Monday.
What do you think Microsoft will announce? What's your completely groundless speculation? Hey, if I can make stuff up, so can you! TalkBack below.