On Keeping Secrets

One interesting characteristic of today's incredible Surface Book launch is how unexpected it was. Among the pundits who often do quite a good job of predicting what will show up, there was no awareness of what would be revealed. As someone who has spent fifteen years in different teams across Microsoft and has close colleagues in every division and discipline, it's very unusual for me to not know in advance of an external announcement -- even when the product is a closely-guarded secret. But I had absolutely no hint of the existence of the Surface Book until it was shown on stage this morning.

Surface Book

It makes an interesting contrast to the previews of the recent Apple iPhone 6S event, many of which were so spot on that they barely needed alteration after the event. In the past, Apple were known for their incredible ability to keep new product innovations secret until the press event, but now it seems to have switched around.

I don't think this is an accident - indeed, I think it tells you a lot about the Surface team's commitment and passion for their product. It takes a lot of people to design and create a product like Surface Book, and it's very easy for a secret this big to leak out. For an announcement like this to be a surprise, two attributes of the team must be present. They need:

  1. to be so proud of what they are creating that they don't want to spoil the surprise for anyone else;
  2. to be sufficiently invested in one another's success that they share a common discipline in their daily work to avoid accidental leaks.

In short, it takes a special team to surprise the world with a special product. To the Surface team - congratulations!

I've already pre-ordered my Surface Book without having touched one, and based on the early experiences of those who were at the event, I'm expecting great things!