08
Jan 10

The futility of the other Steve

How I wish I was there

He can empty a room as quickly as he fills it. (Photo: Laura Rauch/AP)

For several months, the boys at Google have been working toward January 5th: Nexus One launch day. For several months, Apple has been working toward January 27th: tablet launch day. For several months, Microsoft has been working toward January 6th — and two days later, it’s hard to figure out why.

As near as anyone can tell, it’s because of tradition. Microsoft always gives the keynote at CES. But in this ultra-competitive world, tradition is hardly a reason for Steve Ballmer to stand up and make himself look small.

It pains me to be compassionate to this man, but I imagine it’s a near-impossible job to create front-page news from a few scraps. Microsoft has a number of things to brag about — it’s just that none of them are on the scale of Google unveiling a smartphone or Apple unveiling a tablet.

So our man Steve is left holding the script that says “Make big splash here,” when the genuine splash-makers have purposefully organized their own events to pull the rug out from under him. Surely this week Steve’s competitors are shaking their heads and wondering why this guy makes it so easy for them.

The hot rumor before Ballmer’s speech was that he would present a super-cool HP tablet in an effort to dilute Apple’s pending anouncement. He did so with only a passing mention. Maybe HP realized that this was a no-win situation for them with all the expectations for Apple’s new tablet. If they’re smart, and their tablet is that hot, they’re already putting the finishing touches on plans for their own event — sans Ballmer.

Suggestions for Steve: Be a renegade. Skip the damn show if you haven’t the weaponry. Never go anywhere simply because people expect you to. It’s just Showmanship 101.

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  • … resentment is futile …

    Ballmerus of Snorg

  • Synthmeister

    They didn’t even really introduce a tablet. He actually said, “A prototype will be available later this year.”

  • ChuckO

    Typically it seems like Microsoft views these CES keynotes as opportunities to display vaporware. Pizza tables with touchscreens, etc. They announce them and they rarely make it out into the wild.

  • speaking of tablets – though quite a way away from your main theme here ken, i was picturing your ears doing swivels in their sockets at the mention of the name iSlate.
    that can’t possibly be what it’s going to be called. please no.

  • ken segall

    @dion:
    I’ve read a number of blog posts about what a horrible name iSlate would be. I actually don’t mind it. I look at the two previous “i” devices. iPod had nothing to do with music. It was just a cool name, and it became synonymous with music. iPhone was a pretty generic name, but described its basic function. (Didn’t hint at the world of other functions, however.) iSlate? Like iPod, it speaks to the form rather than the function. But slate is a cooler word than phone. Not an easy decision! Well, the truth will soon be revealed…

  • Steve Ballmer: hire a stylist. If you are trying to look cool and hip and relaxed, it’s not working. Otherwise, just wear the freaking suit and tie.

  • ken, i go purely by mouth feel on this one. iSlate gives me one of those lateral lisps, like i’m suddenly suffering succotash.

    slate is indeed a cool word. even cooler will be the truth.

    congrats again on your blog. verrrrry nice.

  • ken segall

    @Dion:
    You are right about the “mouthfeel” thing. Though I accept the name iSlate intellectually, it does not roll off the tongue like iPhone, iPod or the others. “Lateral lisp” is a great way to describe it. If it goes that way, I think that will be largely forgotten, but you’re right — it’s not perfect.