On June 18, Microsoft beckoned 200 or so members of the media to a grimy, industrial part of Hollywood for what it described as a can’t-miss affair. Dutiful reporters met at the appointed hour—3:30 p.m.—at a film and art studio Microsoft had rented out and emptied for the day. While beads of sweat formed on the foreheads of the people waiting to get in, aspiring actresses walked by in tight jeans and high heels on their way to a T-Mobile commercial casting call at the building next door.
Microsoft usually begs for attention. On this day, it played the cool maestro. In fact, the company played the Apple role, using pomp, circumstance, and constructed anticipation to make us believe that something really fantastic would appear. Perhaps the whole thing worked: Something that did seem rather fantastic arrived at about 4:20 p.m. It was the Surface tablet—a computer that had all its software and hardware made by Microsoft. In that moment, Microsoft became not just a competitor to Apple but also a rival to such longtime PC manufacturing partners as Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Acer (2353:TT).