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The Great Hype Wars and Microsoft’s Multi-Touch



MeYesterday was a fascinating day if you pay attention to the PR battles that rage around the mobile devices and technology we all love. And make no mistake, yesterday was more about PR and hype than it was about anything else. Yes, Microsoft released some “snippets” of information on Windows 7 featuring the inclusion of a multi-touch interface. For those of us who’ve seen the promise that this can deliver that is some great news. And of course there are many out there who are still skeptical of the entire multi-touch thing.

But this year’s D: All Things Digital announcement was in effect no different than last year when it comes to impact. Last year, Bill Gates unveiled Surface on a table, this year we’ve got Surface on a laptop. Both announcements were aimed at chipping away at Apple’s iPhone hype machine. Last year it was the first launch of the iPhone. This year, it is the 3G launch (or so we all believe-wouldn’t that be a big disappointment if it didn’t happen?), and possibly some word on yet another Apple Tablet possibility. There is some solid speculation that Apple will be making some noise on that front soon, perhaps at WWDC, perhaps this fall. (Robert Scoble has an interesting aside on this.) Microsoft might have just tried to one up Apple with last night’s announcement if that proves to be true.

The intriguing wrinkle in all of this, is that last night’s announcement of the inclusion of touch in Windows 7 came after a morning blitz from Microsoft’s Steve Sinofsky talking about why Microsoft wasn’t going to be talking about Microsoft 7 in the same way they did about Windows Vista. Taking a cue from Apple’s super secret methods, Sinofsky wants a tight lid on any info going out. It might just be that Jobs flushed Microsoft’s plans out in the open sooner than they were ready to disclose.

If you read the coverage of Microsoft’s multi-touch announcement last night you’ll see an interesting theme emerge. Everywhere you look, the interface is being referred to as iPhone-like. That can’t make the folks in Redmond happy this morning, simply because the multi-touch announcement, given the clamp down on information, is targeted at keeping that from happening, or at the least grabbing some mindshare.

Fascinating to watch from that PR perspective. But, if there is some real news beyond the PR battles to take away from this it is really simple. Both Apple and Microsoft are working hard to bring multi-touch interfaces to all makes and models of devices. There’s a race on for that mindshare and to bring these things to market, but in the end, some time in the future, we’ll see multi-touch on a range of devices and consumers won’t care who got there first.

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