August 20, 2013


megaphoneIt’s tempting to announce what you’re launching soon, especially if a competitor has shipped something new.

Blackberry and Microsoft tend to pre-announce. Apple and Google tend to ship. Guess which approach works better?


Blackberry tried to buy time with pre-announcements about the BB10 hardware and operating system. Anticipation built and exceeded what Blackberry delivered. For instance, there are still no apps for Netflix or Instagram. The pre-announcement strategy didn’t work. The world won’t wait. Other smartphones kept improving. Blackberry was hitting yesterday's irrelevant target.

Blackberry is losing market share across the world, even in former strongholds (CBC News, Aug 19, 2013). The company is now for sale (Globe and Mail, Aug 12), which could net CEO Thorsten Heins $55.6 million (CTV News, Aug 16, 2013).


Steve Jobs was a master of surprise and kept tight control. He announced what was ready for launch. The speculation by others created interest. Not everything succeeded. Apple TV has yet to change the world. The thermonuclear war against Android failed.

While the post-Jobs Apple doesn’t pre-announce, there seem to be more leaks and less innovation than before.


Microsoft likes making big empty pronouncements. In December 1995, Bill Gates finally figured out that the Internet mattered and would be core to all their products. How has that worked out? Office only became web-based this year, which Steve Ballmer calls a “fundamental shift in our business” (CBC News, Jan 2013).

Strategies to dominate search are below expectations with a 17.9% market share for Bing (Search Engine Watch, Jul 2013). Windows 8 is best avoided and has flopped with only 5.4% market share (The Next Web, Aug 1, 2013). The Windows tablets haven't changed the world and led to a write-down of $900 million of unsold inventory (Computerworld, Jul 2013). The Windows phone is getting a toehold as #3, at the expense of Blackberry (ZD Net, Aug 14, 2013).


Google has made tiny forays with big results. Imagine a search engine offering email. Now imagine a world without Gmail and all the plugins. Imagine a search engine creating a web browser (Chrome) and an free operating system for smartphones (Android). These odd steps started small and paid off big.

We’ve had other surprises like the Chromecast TV stick, Google Glass and the Moto X smartphone with always-on voice recognition. If Google made announcements months or years in advance, we'd be yawning now. And competitors would have had advance warning.

Which Way?

Can you think of any great reasons to pre-announce rather than make a splash when you’re ready to ship?


PS Henry Ford said, “You can't build a reputation on what you're going to do.”

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