Microsoft to Unveil Secret Project Mar. 2

With speculation flying about what "fun new products" Apple plans to announce next week, from video iPods to DVR-enabled Mac minis, Microsoft has its own surprise up its sleeve. The Web is abuzz with guesses as to what the Redmond company plans to unveil at origamiproject.com on March 2.

The site, registered by Microsoft and "discovered" early this week, provides few hints. A Flash animation pops up three questions: "Do you know what I can do? Or where I can go? Or how I can change your life?" It ends with the text, "Learn more on 3.2.06."

Imagery of circuitry, clouds and office buildings has sparked rumors that Microsoft may be readying a new mobile communications device. Company evangelist and blogger Robert Scoble says he was unaware of the Origami Project site, but hints: "I do know that Origami is the code-name for a new kind of device. Oh, heck, here come the NDA police, gotta go!"

Scoble's comments may refer to a prototype handheld device demoed at COMDEX in 2001 by National Semiconductor.

"About the size and weight of a small digital camcorder, the National Geode 'Origami' Mobile Communicator is a flexible unit that folds and unfolds to perform eight popular consumer electronics functions in one easy-to-use device," the company said at the time.

Other industry watchers are speculating Origami could be a new type of wearable PC that "unfolds" to run Windows Mobile and costs under $500.

Analysts who have been briefed on the project are keeping mum on any details, building up the suspense for next week. "Expect that we'll have a lot to say about what it all means as well as the implications over the next few weeks," says Jupiter Research vice president Michael Gartenberg.

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