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Vaporware or real deal? Channel Nostradamus with the Microsoft Product Predictor

"Say, Em," said Fabio to your faithful columnist the other day, "did you hear the latest about Natalie Portman?" The dear boy was leafing through a copy of National Snooper (one of those lovely tabloids that beckon to you from the other side of the supermarket checkout counter) at the time, so I didn't pay him much mind.

After all, this noble ex-cowpoke is far above that sort of day-to-day gossip and rumor-mongering, right? Leave that for the plebes; we sysadmins and top-notch developers have better things to do with our time.

It was only when I turned back to reading Slashdot that I had second thoughts about this glib dismissal. We might not care about the latest Hollywood hoo-hah, but let someone mention a rumor of a new product from Microsoft or Apple and we're all over it. News sites will make up news, bloggers will start flame wars, and discussion sites will heat up as soon as the napkin from a software engineer's lunch is discovered in the trash basket with a few cryptic notes scrawled on it.

Now, the problem with rumors is that so few of them are true. You don't want to be casually telling your coworkers that Microsoft is getting ready to ship a full management application for the restaurant industry only to have the announcement be that they're dropping copies of Windows XP SP2 into kiddie meals instead. A few gaffes like that will ruin your credibility, and you'll have all the solitude you could ever want in the lunchroom.

Fear not! At great personal danger (I had to take some Microsoft people out to lunch, and they prefer to eat at the strangest places), your dear Auntie has developed the Microsoft Product Predictor. Just apply these simple rules to the next Microsoft product rumor you happen to run across:

  • +1 point if the project has a geographical code name that refers to either an exotic locale or a ski resort

  • -1 point if the project has any connection whatsoever to an object-oriented rewrite of the Windows file system

  • +1 point if Google already has a Web application in the same space

  • +1 point if the latest delay is explained by the necessity for a "security review"

  • +1 point if the product can be construed as an attack on Linux or open-source software in general

  • -1 point if the product involves music or video without some sort of rights management scheme

  • +1 point if the product has already generated at least one dubious patent

  • -1 point if allegedly leaked screenshots show obvious Photoshop tampering

  • +1 point if the product will require people to upgrade to a new version of Windows

  • +1 point if the product has the MSN or Xbox branding

  • -1 point if the product uses a completely open and license-free file format

  • -1 point if the product runs on an operating system other than Windows

  • -1 point if the product is hardware and looks sexy

  • +1 point if the product attempts to bring Windows to a new device such as a toaster oven or cordless hedge trimmer

  • +1 point if the product was acquired by buying a small company instead of being developed in-house

  • +1 point if the product requires three different servers to function at all

  • -1 point if the product is supposed to be free when it releases

Just add up all the points and refer to this handy key to determine whether you should pass on the rumor or sneer at it knowingly:

  • 0 points or less—This product may ship from Cupertino, but it won't come from Redmond.
  • 1-3 points—If this ever ships, it will be after three years of schedule slips, and the final product will bear no resemblance whatsoever to the original announcements.
  • 4-6 points—Microsoft will likely ship this one, if another security patch for Windows doesn't distract their attention.
  • 7 points or more—If you don't already have this one, you're not on the A list at Microsoft.

Well, I hope that's of some help for your next after-hours bull session with your officemates. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go find out just why Fabio was reading about Natalie Portman in the first place.

Got any juicy rumors of your own to pass on? Or are you ready to hide in a hole and ignore the news sites entirely? E-mail her at [email protected] and, if your comments make it online, you'll earn yourself a nifty cap.

About the Author

Em C. Pea, MCP, is a technology consultant, writer and now budding nanotechnologist who you can expect to turn up somewhere writing about technology once again.

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