Posted by: seanmalstrom | September 8, 2009

Microsoft has no choice but to continue its bluff

In Poker, ‘bluffing’ is acting as if you are holding a better hand than you actually do. ‘Bluffing’ is very important to be done well if you want other players to fold. Then, when you reveal your cards, you get the pot even if you have a mediocre hand.

Microsoft, which is primarily a marketing company, follows this strategy of the ‘bluff’. A company like Apple or Nintendo tend to keep what they are doing very close to the vest. This is why there is so much excitement about their announcements because no one really knows what they are doing until they announce it. They are secretive in part because other companies want to take their ideas.

No one takes ideas from Microsoft. Microsoft, instead, tries to bluff. Microsoft always acts like it is holding a better hand than it actually is. The practice is to get other companies to fold and to not compete against Microsoft. Incredibly, this has worked reliably for Microsoft in the past. But lately, the art of bluffing is no longer working. Much of it is because people do not expect quality products come from Microsoft. When people were promised an Operating System revolution, they wound up with Vista.

Microsoft’s “Natal” is very much a bluff. I do not mean that it will never be released. But I mean that Microsoft is going to ‘bluff’ the hell out of that thing as long as possible until it is released as the mediocre product that it will become.

Look at how Nintendo did the Wii. The motion controller was unveiled at TGS 2005. No software was shown to the public. In private, the controller was shown with some proto-type software (probably like the software that came with Wii Play).

Nothing about the Wii surfaced again until E3 2006. In that period, Nintendo execs kept talking about “Blue Ocean” or “disruption”.

At E3 2006, the Wii software line-up was shown. Also, anyone one at that E3 could play the Wii for themselves. After E3 2006, Nintendo went around letting journalists and regular people play the Wii for themselves. Their mission was to put the controller in as many hands as possible.

Microsoft is showing no interest in putting Natal before regular people who do not have to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Regular people are not allowed to play Natal and comment it as the Wii-mote was (which is the true source of Wii’s pre-launch hype: regular people).

Granted, Natal is likely in its early stages. So why show it off if it isn’t ready? The only answer: to bluff.

Stories like these will keep appearing. But yet, where are the regular people? Why not let them play Natal? Microsoft has already showed off the device and software for it. Why not let regular people play it?

It is because regular people cannot be controlled. Much to Microsoft’s displeasure.


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