When Microsoft sent out invitations to a secret press event for September 30 in San Francisco, rumors spread that it would mark the next major release of Windows.
Now the president of Microsoft France has blown apart Microsoft's attempt at Applesque PR – by letting slip that "Windows 9" is indeed coming.
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"Last year we had Windows 8. In the next few minutes, the next few days, we'll be releasing Windows 9," said Alain Crozier during a web-streamed presentation uncovered by blog WPCentral, which noted the speech's timing with the Sept 30 confab.
This, it seems, is the first time a Microsoft exec has confidently spoken in public of the new operating system build, which Redmond hopes will make up for the uptake of Windows 8 and its touchscreen-driven interface.
It's possible the software is nearly finished: sources close to Microsoft tell El Reg that copies of Windows 9 have been shipped to some friendly journalists for review under embargo.
It appears Microsoft is reading straight out of Apple's playbook. Only a few scribes have been invited to the hush-hush gathering in California, and Redmond isn't letting a lot of hacks in – using the weird excuse that the venue isn't large enough.
These kind of tactics work, up to a point; those let in tend to be rather grateful. Even then, it has backfired on Apple CEO Tim Cook: the Maps fiasco in iOS 6 stung Apple and the reputation of journalists given advanced access: they neglected to mention the crap navigation app, presumably for fear of pissing off their Cupertino mates.
Microsoft appears to be trying the same sort of thing with the launch of the next Windows. Except the wheels have already fallen off. Now Nicolas Petit, director of marketing and operations at Microsoft France, has today told ZDNet.fr, after Crozier's slip was exposed, that "the future of Windows ... actually at this stage does not have a name as such."
It's going to be interesting to see if Microsoft can pull off Jobsian marketing. It works for Apple because there's a rabid fan base out there that wants the earliest access to the sexy products Cook & Co. can produce. Microsoft, and particularly Windows, just isn't that sexy.
Microsoft's US PR team was not available for comment when we dropped it a line. ®
Updated to add
A Microsoft spokesperson has been in touch to say: "On September 30, we will be providing an update on what’s next for Windows and the enterprise."