A few weeks ago Microsoft announced that this would be their last year attending CES and we made sure to attend the keynote thinking they would end things with some crazy huge announcement. They didn't, but there were a few announcements that had us intrigued and you can find all the details past the break.
The keynote began with CEA president Gary Shapiro reminiscing about the first time Bill Gates took to the CES keynote stage. He notes that Microsoft won't be back next year and thanks the computing giant for all they have contributed to the show. Steve Ballmer is then introduced along with an interestingly auto-tuned video recapping the past 15 years of Microsoft at CES. Ryan Seacrest was then introduced as the keynote host and after an awkward hug between the American Idol host and Microsoft CEO it was time to talk business.
First up was Windows Phone 7 where we were pretty much recapped on the features that have been available for the past few months. We seriously didn't learn anything new when it comes to software. However, there were a couple of announcements made regarding Windows Phone hardware. The Nokia 710 will be landing in Canada and T-Mobile subscribers in the U.S. will be able to pick one up on Wednesday, January 11th. Ballmer also revealed that the Nokia 800 would be landing in the next few months and announced the Nokia 900, which will run on AT&T's 4G LTE network. The biggest news in the world of Windows Phone was the new HTC Titan 2. This bad boy will also be available from AT&T and comes packed with a 16 megapixel camera!
Next up was Windows PCs and the Balmy-Seacrest duo got things started with a nice Windows 7 sizzle reel that showed off a bunch of the new “ultrabooks” hitting the scene, including the Sony Vaio Z, Asus Zenbook, Acer Aspire 3S, Toshiba Protege, Dell XPS, Lenovo, Samsung 9 Series, HP Envy 14, and more. We were then introduced to Tami Reller, Chief marketing officer of Windows, who started by introducing us to the new Windows 8 lock screen. It sports a new feature called “picture password” that will let us set points on a photo that have to be touched in order to unlock the device – it looked pretty cool. She went on to explain how Windows 8 would feature all the same functionality regardless of whether we're using touchscreen controls, a mouse or a keyboard. Windows 8 will “combine the potential of tablet with the power of a PC”, said Reller.
During her time on stage she went on to show us the new Windows Store where we'll have access to free and paid apps beginning late February – all of the apps will compatible with Windows PCs and tablets. Multitasking will also play a big role in the new OS as Reller showed us a new newsreader app and a word document open and running side-by-side. Still no word on when the new OS will be available, but we were told that the next milestone in reaching that goal will come next month. It's beginning to sound like timing really was a big reason for Microsoft leaving the show next year. Had it been one month later we probably would have seen a slew of new Windows 8 features.
Finally it was time for Xbox 360 to take the stage. (There were gospel singers dubbed the “Tweet Choir” that took the stage before this, but I really have nothing to say about it.) We go back to Ballmer and Seacrest and the two discuss what a success Xbox 360 has become, noting that there are over 66 million Xbox users and 40 million Xbox LIVE subscribers. We're recapped on the new dashboard that rolled out in December and the tile-style Metro interface that continues to take over Microsoft devices. The big news here is a partnership with News Corp. that will bring FOX, WSJ, Fox News and IGN to Xbox 360 in the same way that content providers like HBO Go and YouTube have recently been introduced to the platform. We were also introduced to Sesame Street TV which is taking current episodes and using Kinect to make them interactive. The demo we were shown had a young girl helping Grover clean up his spilled coconuts by “throwing” them into a box on-screen. That demo was followed by another that showed how Kinect could be used to actually put yourself in Elmo's World. If you have kids they'll love it.
To wrap things up we were shown a quick video highlighting the many uses for Kinect away from Xbox 360 in other fields like the medical and education industries, and it was revealed that Kinect for PC will be available beginning February 1st.
The keynote ended with Seacrest asking Ballmer “What's next?” Ballmer enthusiastically replied “METRO, METRO, METRO!” and reminded all of us that nothing is more important to Microsoft than Windows 8. SEACREST OUT!