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Microsoft Keynote

Microsoft is really one of the founding companies of the entire technology revolution, so while I’m here at CES, I just had to listen what Steve Ballmer had to share with the industry.

Microsoft is bullish on Bing, the new Windows 7 phone and Kinect for Xbox360 Live, where you are the controller. The Kinect concept has been a bit hit and is expanding to access and control of the Zune music and movie playing devices, as well as Netfilx and huluplus (in the Spring).

This sounds great, though I’m not sure how effectively the ‘body control’ concept is with peoples of all ages and computer aptitude.

Microsoft is also merging texting, sports betting and on-screen trash talking through its partnership with ESPN. I’m sure that will be a hit with sports fans, though it wasn’t clear from the demo when sports fans would watch the game vs. do all the texting, betting, and trash talking…

Another new feature Microsoft will make available is creating an actual avatar within Kinect for users. Through voice recognition, body tracking and now facial tracking, Microsoft is giving us all avatars. It looks like an attempt to wrap a virtual world around a fb-type experience.

My immediate concern is finding a way to control which ‘avatars’ my kids can interact with in this new way. From a security perspective, this looks like a show-stopper right now.

The games themselves are also merged from Xbox console and the Windows 7 mobile phone.  So, any money or gold won by a character in a game played on the phone is immediately available to the character when playing that game on the Xbox console. This feature has been out for a while meaning that Microsoft phones (with our address books, contacts, web app and associated passwords) and game consoles are both connected to Microsoft’s game servers where all this information is tracked. Is that connection secure?

Microsoft seams to be doing well in the gaming category and is really pushing the Windows 7 phone, which makes sense given the size of thst market and because in a lot of ways the phone is becoming many peoples main access to the Internet/technology. Still, they are far behind in the phone category, with only 5500 apps available right now. (Yeah, I know, no one can actually use 5500 apps, but this is really a small number in comparison with the AppStore and the Android market.)

Microsoft’s prime area of dominance remains the operating system and Steve Ballmer cited that 20% of Interconnected computers run Windows 7.

The Microsoft session also showed several new form factors in laptop computing, including (okay, my favorite) an Acer dual touch screen laptop where the traditional keyboard panel was the second touch screen and doubled as a software keyboard.

They also showed the new version of the table PC, now called the Surface PC. It uses infrared “pixel sense” instead of cameras to see who and what is touching the screen. This screen appears to be able to read text, Also, the Surface PC was thinner and really could double as a table.

Next version of Windows will support the System on a Chip (SoC) concept so that the performance and flexibility of Windows can be on all devices regardless of form factor. Interesting goal.

Towards the goal, they demonstrated a version of Microsoft Word recompiled to run directly on an ARM chip.

Now, what wasn’t said: Actual sales figures for Windows 7, OS or phone. Also no mention of a “Microsoft TV” product to compete with Apple and Google.

My overall take of Steve Ballmer’s opening keynote at this year’s CES was that of a politician promising to do More with Less.

When Ballmer says (paraphrased): “Customers expect PC power and productivity in all form factors.” It appears he means that we’ll be able to run all our apps, fb, search, stream music and movies, engage in online multi-player RPGs on any device we want on a Windows operating system. I would only add that Windows tablets and smart phones need their still-Industry leading business productivity suite MS-Office.

So, essentially, users will be able to do everything we want to do online with any device we wish to use. We make our choice of device with no trade offs in applications or capabilities.

Truthfully, the industry & consumers do need this kind of ubiquitous, do-all OS. Will it happen? Not likely in this cycle. Check back next CES.

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January 5, 2011 - Posted by | Audience Communication

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