Microsoft, long despised as a bare-knuckled monopolist and purveyor of kludgy, overpriced operating systems, is beginning to turn the tide of pundit opinion against its hipper competitor, Apple. How? By challenging Apple's marquee successes head-on. As the Wire noted earlier, Microsoft won plaudits for trying to poach top talent from Apple's stores to staff retails outlets that it plans to open nearby. Microsoft is generating further enthusiasm by rolling out a new tablet computer--"The Courier"--that aims to steal thunder from Apple's own much-hyped, though as yet hypothetical, product.

The PR blitz is paying off in better press for Microsoft than it's seen in months, although users have yet to be persuaded. It's ironic that Microsoft has come to be viewed as an underdog rather than a leviathan. But recent opinion suggests that that is the case:

  • 'Unlike Anything We've Seen Before,' raved The Paperboy at Gizmodo, who obtained the leak about the Microsoft tablet. "The Courier user experience presented here is almost the exact opposite of what everyone expects the Apple tablet to be, a kung fu eagle claw to Apple's tiger style."
  • Microsoft Has Turned its Innovation Rep Around, wrote Zack Urlocker at Infoworld, remarking on how much things have changed. In "recent years 'Microsoft Innovation' has been an oxymoron, like 'millitary intelligence' or 'software schedule.'...If Microsoft is willing to try out new form factors and ideas, then they may well come up with something that creates a whole new category."
  • A Game Changer, Imrain Hussein exulted at Think Different. Microsoft "One up'd the mythical Apple tablet big time!...Depending on how it's priced and when it is released along with the software features, this could be the netbook killer from Microsoft. Microsoft has really been on a roll in 2009 so far, and I bet Bill Gates would be sleeping with a big smile on his face knowing that his dream of tablet PCs is about to be realized!"
  • 'You'd Leave Your Wife for It,' Michael Bettiol raved at Boy Genius Report. "Apple's tablet might have captured our imagination but leaked renders of Microsoft's secret Courier tablet have captured our hearts."
  • Better Than the Apple Tablet's Dreams, enthused Brian Heater at Gearblog. "The Apple tablet is real--only it's being developed by Microsoft...It's not quite the Apple tablet--in fact, in may actually be better. One thing's for sure, all of the sudden it's a lot more real than the long-rumored iPad."
Although the leak paid off in rave reviews, the product still has to clear one major hurdle, of course: it has to be released. Kit Eaton of Fast Company laid down the skeptic's view:
Do you believe MS, still hobbling along after its Windows Vista disgrace, can really pull off such an apparently revolutionary machine? Or is this just a glimpse of the distant future, along the lines of its Vision of 2019 promotional video?