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Facebook borrows Apple's playbook to hype announcement

A 'like' sign stands at the entrance of Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California. Will users like Facebook's mystery announcement later this week?

Rumors are flying, analysts are speculating and reporters are scrambling for the inside scoop over a mysterious announcement that's being promised by Facebook.

Journalists received a cryptic invitation last week that simply said, "Come and see what we're building." The event is set for tomorrow at the company's Silicon Valley headquarters. If this strategy for unveiling a new product sounds familiar, Facebook seems to be borrowing a page from Apple's playbook.

Steve Jobs, Apple's late wunderkind CEO, was a master of suspense. He hyped the company's new iPhone back in 1997 after its top-secret development. "Every once in a while," he declared at the much-ballyhooed unveiling, "a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything."

Generating buzz around a company's new product is "definitely an art form," says tech industry analyst Jeff Kagan. He says Jobs proved time and again that suspense sells. "If you do it right, it can be more successful than anything else -- it can blow the roof off," Kagan says.

Kagan is eager to see if rumors are true that Facebook will introduce its own mobile phone. "Doubtful," says tech analyst Rob Enderle. He's guessing Facebook might take the wraps off some kind of new online shopping or music service. But the point is, he's guessing -- along with everybody else.  

"For not a lot of money, they're getting everybody talking about Facebook, and speculating about what it is they're going to do or they're not going to do," Enderle says. "It's giving them ink."

All the publicity can lead to an announcement becoming over-hyped, cautions Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter. He says he's expecting something more modest, perhaps involving the integration of Facebook's recently purchased photo-sharing website Instagram.

Pachter suggests some of the speculation has gotten out of hand. "You know, everybody puts two and two together and it looks like it adds up to four," he says, "but it never quite gets there."

What would Steve Jobs have to say about that? He led development of some of the most successful products in history -- the iPod, iPhone and iPad -- and never spared the superlatives:

"This is really hot," he told one packed event. "It's one of the seven wonders of the world. It's just incredible!"

About the author

Bob Moon is Marketplace’s senior business correspondent, based in Los Angeles.
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