CES 2011 is officially underway and Microsoft's CEO, Steve Ballmer, took to the stage to give us the inside scoop on what changes and new products we could expect this year. Honestly, it started out pretty slow, but that quickly changed.
When Kinect launched for Xbox 360 back in November a lot of us, who were looking forward to the controller-free system, got stuck with a big disappointment. The voice and gesture commands that were supposed to make our Netflix app controller free were completely absent. Finally, Microsoft has announced the features will be hitting the console this Spring! To make things even better, they dropped some more good news. Hulu Plus is officially heading to our consoles and just like the Netflix app, it too will feature the voice and gesture commands Kinect currently proivides our Zune libraries.
Microsoft didn't end the Xbox LIVE announcements there, oh no. Avatar Kinect takes our Avatars -- and Kinect itself -- to a whole new level. Using the Kinect system's facial recognition and body tracking, the free upgrade for Gold subscribers, literally puts us in control of our Avatars. The on-stage demo showed friends watching a football game using the ESPN app, but rather than using voice chat or Video Kinect to get the trash talk rolling, gestures and even facial expressions were conveyed through the Avatars. When you stand up and shout at the ref for a bogus call, your Avatar will do the same, matching the appropriate arm-flailing and dirty looks.
The recently introduced Windows Phone 7 made an appearance too. Apparently updates will be "pushed" to new and existing Windows Phone 7 devices later this year, giving users new features like copy and paste while providing significant changes to reduce load times when switching between apps. On top of that, folks waiting to get their hands on a Windows handset will be happy to hear Windows Phone 7 will be landing on Verizon and Sprint networks in the first quarter of 2011! That's not a very long wait kids!
Gaming and phones obviously aren't Microsoft's only focus. Windows 7 is still going strong with the computing giant saying their Windows 7 PCs are the fastest selling PCs ever. New hardware like an ASUS tablet with an Intel Core i5 processor, wireless keyboard and capacitive touchscreen will only keep this trend going. Tablets aren't the only Windows 7 suprises we got. The new Microsoft Surface was also shown off during the event. New infrared sensors replacing the cameras used in previous versions make Surfaces more versatile than ever. No longer will they have to be a table -- mounting them on a wall and using them for interactive kiosks is now something easily achieved, and they will be available within the next few months running a full featured version of Windows 7.
The rumors of Windows 8 appearing were put to rest. Although, Microsoft did show off a new version of Windows. Unfortunately, this new version used the same user interface we see in Windows 7 but it was running smoothly on devices under development using nothing but ARM chips! That was pretty cool. Stay tuned to MTV Geek! for more CES 2011 coverage.
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