Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Microsoft’s Origami Campaign Already a Fizzle

In the past, Microsoft has run some fantastic viral campaigns. The ilovebees campaign and alternate reality game for the release of Halo 2 had gamers and Halo fans on pins and needles for months before the game was finally released. And the hype they built up around the launch of the Xbox 360, with mysterious websites like, hex168, and Origenxbox360 defied all reason, compelling everybody and their grandmother to either camp out in the Best Buy parking lot, or pay three times the MSRP to some greedy scalper on eBay, all to purchase a $400 toilet bowl-colored game console.

Whether the results Microsoft got from their viral campaigns in the past was due to an army of clever and creative marketers, or the secret mind-control device they have hidden under the floorboards of Bill Gates’s hunting cabin, something has broken down. The new viral campaign they’re currently running for the Origami Project ( has lost its edge. When the mobile mini PC/Internet tablet with the flip-top lid finally goes public, all the major media outlets will cover it. All the people will go “Oooooo!”, and many will actually go to the store and bring one home.

But unless I’ve totally missed something, there’s no way that Microsoft will be getting anywhere near the number of “Oooooo!’s” this time that they got with the Xbox 360, or even the same kind of buzz that Apple just got with their tiny “a few nice things” statement before everyone realized they were just unveiling an iPod boom box. Ever since the video clip of an Origami Microsoft mini-tablet was “leaked” onto the Internet (Microsoft claims it’s a year-old prototype), the iconic company has been extremely loose-lipped about what exactly Origami is. As a result, they’re just not getting the kind of buzz they could be getting if they had just kept everything all mysterious, or even spread a dash of disinformation.

People have already made up their minds about what Origami is and Microsoft seems to have made no effort whatsoever to confuse them. Therefore there’s no longer any need for journalists, bloggers, and ordinary people to speculate about anything big. Will Origami have built-in GPS? What processor will it use? Will it have Bluetooth? How much is it? These are small speculations, and as a result, Microsoft is getting small buzz.

If they had kept Origami more under-wraps (or at least disclosed information about it a little more gradually), and fostered an environment ripe for creative beams of hope, there would be bigger questions flying around the Internet and more people talking about it with greater fervency. Will it unify my PC with my living room? Will it change the way I work, live and travel? Will it kill the iPod? Will it play Halo? Will it make toast?

The general public believes that the big questions have already been answered. The viral site is a three-part reveal. The third and final section launches on March 9th (Thursday). Then we’ll see what Microsoft’s last word is.


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