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“You can’t show this to anyone, even outside testers, until we know we got it! You could get fired if you show this to anyone outside of the company!”

More often than not, extremely secret projects result in products that

flop. What we now know as the Microsoft PixelSense was originally introduced in 2007 as a massive, table-sized tablet with a 30-inch rear projection display. Dubbed the Microsoft Surface, the product was kept under tight controls . It had a hefty price tag (over $10,000) and was inaccessible to developers . When the 9.7-inch Apple iPad was released in 2010, I joked that it was a “miniature” Microsoft Surface . The form factor was smaller, it was cheaper, and it had a multi-touch screen I lamented that Microsoft had kept the Surface so close to its vest . It made it more difficult for the product to catch on in the market In October 2012, Microsoft released its own smaller tablet device, retaining the Surface name . The larger Microsoft Surface was renamed the PixelSense, and served by Samsung SUR40 with Microsoft PixelSense, and the name Surface was reserved for the smaller tablet Though Microsoft reported $853 million in revenue from Surface sales during the 2013 fiscal year, it spent over $900 million on marketing and advertising for a product that consumers didn’t respond well to In addition, Microsoft had recently risked redesigning its core operating system, capped by the release of the ill-fated and difficult to use Windows 8 Microsoft learned its lesson, though, and didn’t give up—the Surface 2 and Surface 3 did much better, and so did future releases of Microsoft Windows . By January 2015, sales of the Surface had reached $1 billion . The Windows 10 operating system debuted in July 2015 and was a stable release perfectly suited for mobile tablets . The future of Microsoft Surface and its other new products such as the Microsoft Surface Book (a laptop offering) and the Surface Hub (an interactive smartboard) are yet to be seen, but Microsoft slowly improved on its products


This is one of the most difficult arguments to battle . Many companies, in fact, have intellectual property (IP) issues and a legitimate concern about product leaks, so showing the product to the outside world might not be allowed by corporate policy On the other hand, the longer a product is developed without external feedback, the more likely it is to fall into an echo chamber of features and interfaces that make sense to the developers, but not the users .

So, rather than fighting a losing battle to show it to the world, work instead to get feedback internally. An organization that’s large enough to have IP concerns is large enough to have coworkers who are completely unfamiliar with the project .

Internal usage is a good litmus test for the outside world . If a product is good enough that it spreads internally, and people voluntarily use the product at the company, then the product may well succeed outside of the company. That is how Gmail spread, in fact: first internally at Google and then as an externally released product .

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