Apple, Microsoft Cut Hype, Boost Candor in Recent Product Rollouts

NEWS ANALYSIS: Both major players in the computer OS market make a remarkable about-face in their most recent product rollouts by cutting the hype and telling customers what to expect.

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There were surprises at Apple's introduction of the iPad Air 2, but for the most part, they weren't about the tablet itself, nor were there many surprises in regards to OSX Yosemite, the new iMac or even the iPad Mini 3.

While there were new details that we learned for the first time, most of the major announcements were known. The biggest surprise was the appointment of comedian Stephen Colbert as Apple's "chief secrecy officer."

Of course, it was a joke, as was Colbert's request that he be named "supreme allied commander of super secrecy." At least, I think that part was a joke. But what was most remarkable was that Apple could poke fun at its own history of super secrecy in previous announcements.

Apple's announcement in September was likewise mostly about things that were known. While Apple Pay wasn't common knowledge, most of the details of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were well known before the announcement.

Likewise, when Microsoft announced that Windows 10 would be available at the beginning of October, about the only surprise was the fact that it would be called Windows 10 instead of Windows 9. The features of that operating system were also not really a surprise. And just to make sure that there were no surprises left, Microsoft is giving away complete preview copies of Windows 10 months before the product actually starts shipping.

It's also notable that Apple was no longer taking shots at Microsoft or IBM. Instead, Apple executives mentioned situations in which Windows users could work with Apple products and they frequently mentioned IBM as Apple's enterprise partner.

Likewise, in its presentations, Microsoft eschewed any negative portrayal of Apple or IBM. If there was a bad guy in the room, it was Google and Android, but only to the extent that Apple executives claimed higher rates of adoption for the current version of iOS than the current version of Android.

For those of us who have been around long enough to watch the hype-filled announcements by Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, this is a major change in direction. Even a couple of years ago Apple was positively paranoid about real or imagined leaks.

The company swore out criminal warrants against a technology magazine because it suspected that its editors had gotten their hands on a pre-release version of the iPhone. In those days, Steve Jobs was all about controlling the message at any cost.

But, of course, so was Bill Gates. While Microsoft's announcements were less over-the-top than Apple's, they were still pretty outlandish.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...