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CES 2011: Microsoft Keynote

by Sean P. Aune | January 6, 2011January 6, 2011 12:09 am PDT

You know it’s officially CES (the Consumer Electronics Show) when Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft takes the stage.

At the Wednesday night pre-show keynote, Mr. Ballmer took to the stage to discuss the year gone by and what the future holds for the company.

Gaming

Kinect was definitely the focus of what was discussed tonight as it seems it is breathing an entire new life into the Xbox 360.  Ron Forbes, from Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment division, came out and demoed new uses for the Kinect coming over the next few months.  Showing new controls in the Zune interface, you will now be able to use voice and gesture commands to browse trailers, give voice commands for what you want to do with movies and even use gestures to seek out certain scenes in a video.

Zune Music allows you to browse songs by gesture or voice.  Kinect controls coming to Netflix this Spring.  Also coming to Hulu Plus later this spring.

Kinect Avatar will now allow you to use your controller to command your avatar, even tracking things such as your eyebrows and other gestures as you move around.  I don’t know about you, but the creepy uses for this are … yeah, you can figure them out.  It’ll be coming to Xbox Live Gold users this year for free.

The big question has been just how well the new device has done.  Well, in the first 60 days the Kinect sold eight million units, smashing the prediction that it would sell five million by the end of the holiday season.

Despite he fact people complain about the fact they have to pay for Xbox Live, the number of users  has jumped up to 30 million members, and gains a new member every two seconds.  Microsoft is also going to focus even more on the integration with its new mobile platform, Windows Phone 7.  Connections with the Microsoft operating system are going to get tighter, and you’ll see things like earning coins in Fable Coin Golf on your phone will translate to more money in Fable III.

Windows

Windows 7 was what we all wanted out of Vista, and that is being reflected in the number of copies sold.  The latest iteration of the operating system sells seven copies a second, true a lot of that is through computer manufacturers, but it is impressive none-the-less.

Windows 8 did get some love during the talk tonight in that it will work with a broader number of chip makers such as Intel will work off the X86 system while NVIDIA, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and AMD will work off of the ARM architecture.  Mike Angioulo, Corporate Vice President, came out to demo the next version, and while at its core it was interesting, it was overlayed with a Windows 7 skin to mask any new user interface or features, so don’t think we were shown what will eventually end up in our computers.

What was new about the system is it will be known as System on a Chip (SoC) operating system.  Windows 8 will allow the operating system to come to more devices and  form factors due to the fact that it will be embedded into chips as opposed to being a piece of software on your hard drive, hence all the involvement with chip companies at this early stage of development.

Windows Phone 7

Copy and paste and the application loading and switching capabilities will get a boost through automatically sent up updates in the coming months.  That was about it for the new mobile operating system segment of the show except for a seven minute demo of just how nifty the phones were that made me think it might be more exiting to watch paint dry.

In other Microsoft news, they talked about how their Live services have surpassed 500 million users, and that Hotmail is the true king of online e-mail.  No one really seemed to flinch at this.

Microsoft’s Surface, those huge screen PCs we have heard about for years, but rarely see,  has shown up again.  It has now been shrunk down to being only four-inches thick, and due to this you no longer have to use it just as a table, but it can now also be hung on a wall and be used as a kiosk.

Overall I would have to say it was a rather lackluster event.  This was my first time seeing Mr. Ballmer in person, and … well … he is certainly no Steve Jobs.  The fact he was so obviously reading from teleprompters definitely cut the excitement in the room, and the only real cheers of excitement was when products using Microsoft products got more cheers for their design innovations than anything Microsoft itself said.

Microsoft will still have a good year, we’re sure, but it sure would have been nice to see some more excitement.


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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