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Microsoft hinting at new gadget?

A cryptic Web site appears to hint that the company will reveal information about a new consumer product on Thursday.

A cryptic Web site that was set up by Microsoft but does not bear its name appears to hint that the company will reveal information about a new consumer product on Thursday. The site caused a flurry of speculation on Internet gadget gossip sites over the weekend.

The Web site, Origamiproject.com, suggests that the introduction of a personalized mobile device that "will change your life" is in the offing, but gives no details. It promises an update on Thursday.

A video clip unearthed by bloggers on the Web site of the video production firm Digital Kitchen appears to be an advertisement for a handheld, wireless touch-screen computer from Microsoft called Origami. Paul Mattheus, Digital Kitchen's chief executive, and a press contact listed on its Web site did not return phone calls or e-mail messages on Sunday.


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Richard Doherty, the president of Envisioneering, a consumer electronics consulting firm, said that his company had received an invitation to a briefing for analysts at Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Wash., on Thursday.

"It's a 'technology' we've been invited to see," Doherty said. "That could be all kinds of things. But a device that is near to shipping would be surprising. If Microsoft was working with any of the major chip makers on a new device, it would be a long shot that that piece of information would not slip out until the product was almost ready."

Intel has been working on multimedia tablet-style PCs running Windows for some time. One prototype, called Ruby, was shown to some industry analysts last year. According to one analyst who saw Ruby, it was about the size of the device in the Digital Kitchen video.

Frank Shaw, a spokesman for Microsoft, said Saturday that the company was not planning an announcement on Thursday, but that it would have something to talk about at an industry event next month. He would not comment on the intent of the Web site but confirmed that it did belong to Microsoft.

Several commentators suggested the device would be a Microsoft-branded media player aimed at competing with Apple Computer's iPod. Microsoft has had little success in using its conventional model of rallying branded hardware makers around its software and services to create a compelling alternative to Apple's combination of the iPod and the iTunes music store.

A number of industry analysts said that Microsoft, which has traditionally generated little suspense with its product announcements, was trying to steal a page from Apple's playbook by fueling anticipation with secrecy.

For its part, Apple has sent reporters invitations to a press event on Tuesday to introduce "fun new" products at the company's headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.

Steve Lohr contributed reporting from New York for this article.

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