What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Have you ever noticed how leading up to Macworld there’s a blizzard of rumour and speculation about what kind of cool new products Apple will release? The rumours are invariably wrong (remember the big-screen TV with a computer in it that one site figured was a shoe-in?), but it makes for fun reading. It looks as though Microsoft may be taking some lessons from Steve Jobs, the king of buzz-building, with a new portable device that is said to be in the works — code-named “Origami.”

According to several different reports, including one from respected tech site Ars Technica, Origami is a small portable device with a detachable keyboard and a Tablet PC-style screen — a device that might allow you to take the screen with you and watch movies or listen to music, or perhaps surf the Web, with a keyboard for entering large amounts of data if necessary. There’s a “viral marketing” website with few details, other than a note that more info will be forthcoming on March 2nd. Coincidentally, Apple is also set to announce something mysterious a few days before that.

Some sites have been having fun with the idea of Origami, but it seems obvious that something is coming (the original ad for the as-yet-unseen device is gone from the agency’s website, but video-sharing site YouTube managed to grab a copy). The Scobleizer has effectively confirmed the existence of such a device or project, which seems to be more like a mini-Tablet than a video iPod type of device, although he’s been backpedaling a little on the whole thing. Even the New York Times has picked up on the buzz, with a piece about the speculation, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has something too.

Whether the reality of Origami lives up to the buzz, of course, remains to be seen. As my buddy Kent Newsome notes, Microsoft is likely in for a backlash if it isn’t.

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