Unlike Apple, a company known for secrecy, Microsoft hasn't quite mastered this mysterious tech announcement thing, giving us too little information for its event later today. On Thursday evening, the company sent out the cryptic invitation below with few details it has yet to confirm.

And that's really all Microsoft has given us to work with, with the following details.

  • Update 1:28 p.m.: We now know the event will be held at Milk Studios, a Los Angeles space that describes itself as "a hub for nurturing creativity and supporting partnerships with some of the industry’s most visionary talent and innovative brands." Poking around the website, Reuters's Matthew Keys thinks the event is photography related.
  • Microsoft is holding an event, where it will announce something "major" -- cue rampant speculation.
  • The event will take place today, a mere four days after the invite went out.
  • The doors will open at 3:30 PST, a very inconvenient time for an East Coast Blogger trying to run evening post-work errands.
  • The event is in Los Angeles, a plane-ride away locale for tech bloggers in either New York or Los Angeles. "And they expect us to show up in LA four days later? I don’t think so," complained TechCrunch's Peter Ha.
  • Unlike Apple, Microsoft didn't put any giveaways on its invitation, on which the hungry rumor mongers can nibble until the announcement.

So, all we have to work with is that "major" word, which has indeed caused the rumor mill to go a bit haywire. In just a few days the predictions have ranged from tablet certainty to a possible Xbox, here's what we've seen so far.

  • Microsoft could announce an iPad killing tablet, given the locale of the event -- Los Angeles is the center of entertainment, tablets are for fun. Plus that would be major enough to fall into the "major" category. And, Microsoft has mentioned tablet tech for its new Windows 8 OS.
  • Or maybe, instead, we'll see a glorified e-reader, hooked up to Barnes & Noble. This at first made sense, sending B&N stock up almost 10 percent. Microsoft had announced a big investment in the company earlier this year.
  • Though, that Barnes & Noble thing now looks unlikely, with Barnes & Noble confirming it has nothing to do with the event.
  • So maybe this has to do with the rumored new Xbox 720, suggested in a leaked document that Ars Technica got their hands on.

Whatever the announcement, however, the hype has already ensured disappointment. Mystery has heightened expectations and the techies are already exhausted. A glorified e-reader, for example, isn't enough, suggests Mashable's Chris Taylor, in his post "This Had Better Be a Big Deal." Apple has cultivated the type of fanboyism that can sustain its shady behavior. For all its annoying secrecy, it has consistently impressed. Microsoft has not, especially in the hardware department as AllThingsD's Ina Fried notes. "Microsoft’s hardware efforts beyond that have been more misses than hits," pointing to the Kin and the Zune as examples of their failure. Even if Microsoft announces something promising, it has out Apple-d itself on this whole covert operation thing, meaning it has to out Apple on the device part, too. At least from what the whisperers are saying, that doesn't seem likely.