Ballmer uses CES keynote to tout Windows 7
No breakthrough technology announced
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer kicked off the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last night with a speech largely about how the information technology industry had stayed focused and worked hard, despite 2009 being a year of "unprecedented economic turmoil."
Ballmer showed off some new products, including a Windows Mobile 6.5 smart phone and Hewlett-Packards's Slate, a tablet PC that will be available later this year. For the most part, when he talked about products, he talked about Windows 7, the new operating system the compay released late last year.
Ironically, although Ballmer's speech extolled the wonders of technology, it started off with a power outage that delayed the scheduled keynote by at least 20 minutes.
Ballmer stressed three areas of new directions for the company:
- The increasing importance and evolution of the screen, from handhelds to televisions to PCs, and the intermingling of roles among them.
- The trend toward cloud computing.
- Natural user interfaces, or NUIs.
"Things we take for granted today would sound like science fiction in the 1980s," Ballmer said.
He announced that Bing, Microsoft's search engine, would be the default search engine on Hewlett-Packard PCs.
Ballmer also announced that the HTC HD2 smart phone, which runs Windows Mobile 6.5, will be available in the U.S. through T-Mobile this spring.
But the biggest hit of 2009 for Microsoft was undoubtedly Windows 7, "one of my favorite topics," Ballmer said. "Windows 7 is a rising tide that has lifted many boats in our business." Windows 7 was the fastest-selling operating system in history, he said. The week it launched, Windows PC sales jumped 50 percent, he said.
Ryan Asdourian, a senior product manager at Microsoft, displayed laptops from Lenovo, Sony and others that make use of Windows 7's touch capabilities, including an MSI laptop that was thinner than a poker chip.
Asdourian also showed the Blio, an e-book reader that can add interactive elements and video to a textbook, and can even read aloud to the user using speech technology.
The full color HP Slate will also use Windows 7 touch features and will work with Amazon's Kindle for PC. Users can download e-books directly from Amazon.com.
A representative from Microsoft's gaming side, Robbie Bach, talked about advances in the entertainment and gaming industries. The company's recent successes include xBox Live and Halo. Bach also announced Project Natal, an xBox 360 product that uses natural user interface to give users the feeling of natural movement.
The keynote was punctuated by short videos from "Saturday Night Live" cast member Seth Meyers, who gave examples of times that technology had backfired on him, such as having to videoconference with his grandmother and being beaten mercilessly in video games by an 11-year-old. "Thanks, technology," was Meyers' deadpan refrain.
Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.