- Microsoft has wrapped Monday's announcement in a veil of secrecy
- Speculation has centered around an "iPad killer" Microsoft tablet
- Event sure to be compared to Apple announcements, and had better deliver
- Microsofts Kinect camera or new "smart glass" tech would be huge
When Microsoft says you really don't want to miss something, does that make it a can't-miss event? Or is the company capable of -- whisper it low -- crying wolf?
We'll find out Monday afternoon in Los Angeles, where the software giant has invited Mashable and a handful of other tech press to an event so mysterious it doesn't have a location at time of writing, let alone a subject.
Naturally, the speculation has been rampant, but it has also been relatively focused (Microsoft, a sprawling company not known for secrecy, may have had a hard time keeping the wraps on anything this big).
On Thursday we heard the company was preparing an "iPad killer" tablet; by the weekend, the rumor mill had turned that gadget into a glorified e-reader, the first fruit of its two month-old partnership with Barnes & Noble.
That had us veteran tech journalists — who had changed schedules, booked flights and commandeered hotel suites at the last minute, all on Microsoft's say-so -- humming that old Peggy Lee tune, "Is That All There Is?"
Don't get me wrong. I love a good e-reader as much as the next gadget-toting bookworm. And Barnes & Noble's latest Nook with glowlight -- the first e-reader to combine the eminently readable e-ink and backlighting in a single device (take that, Kindle!) -- certainly shows promise for its Nook-based Microsoft deal.
Presumably, the mystery tablet would have something more than books. Some kind of Hulu partnership, perhaps, or a similar buy-in from Big Entertainment (which would explain the location). Connectivity with the Xbox 360, hopefully. Maybe it'll even run on something other than Windows 8, just to make things (kind of) interesting.
But for this kind of hoopla, to paraphrase that great tech guru Dr. Evil, this tablet needs to be strapped to a shark that shoots frickin' lasers.
There are only two Microsoft technologies I can think of that might rise to that metaphorical level: the Kinect camera, which would be really cool if squeezed down to tablet-camera size, and some sort of widespread implementation of Smart Glass -- where you can flick photos, songs and other documents or game items around the room, from your tablet to your Xbox, perhaps even to the fabled smart tabletop, Microsoft Surface.
Were Redmond to start selling that kind of furniture, it would be sharks-with-lasers huge.
Of course, it's always possible that it is just an e-reader after all -- and that well-meaning Microsoft executives have been looking at ways to take a page from Apple's book. You might watch a Steve Jobs or Tim Cook keynote and conclude that getting that level of buzz involves creating that level of mystique, and you might then market a humdrum launch with Apple levels of silence and secrecy.
You might conclude that, and you'd be wrong. Apple launches are as big a deal as they are because of the products themselves. As much as the company goes out of its way to amp up expectation, it understands that you have to have something insanely cool under those wraps to justify the hype.
If you wrap Apple-level mystery around a non-Apple level product, all anyone will talk about after the event is the ridiculousness of it all. So for Microsoft's sake, let's hope no wolves are being cried about. Let's hope for sharks with lasers instead.
Wolves or laser-bearing sharks? The only way you'll know for certain is by following today's live blog of the Microsoft announcement. Check back with Mashable around noon ET for more details.