If you were expecting big news from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s final CES keynote, forget it. “Windows Store” for applications is coming in February. Aside from that, his conversation-style keynote with Ryan Seacrest was more a recap than a big look forward.
“In 2012, what’s next? Metro, Metro, Metro, and, of course, Windows, Windows, Windows,” Ballmer said, when Seacrest asked him at the end of the talk about things to come.
The “Metro” user interface, those tile-like objects familiar to anyone who knows Windows Phone, was shown working on the forthcoming Window 8 operating system.
Windows 8 was also put through its paces. Bing was positioned as a sort of Siri for Xbox. Kinect for Windows was said to come in the next few weeks.
Below, my live blogging of the keynote, as it unfolded. See also other accounts via Techmeme here and here. Expect some typos — I might catch them later, but the battery is going, and there are more CES events I’ve got to head to.
End Of A Tradition
Ballmer’s final keynote? Earlier this month, Microsoft declared that CES was no longer the right place to be delivering keynotes, since it didn’t align with product news. That sparked some debate about who dumped whom.
That made this Ballmer’s fourth CES keynote. Before that, Bill Gates delivered 10 of them, or so says Wikpedia. PC Magazine has a nice retrospective on all the past Microsoft keynotes at CES. But no more, after this year, no more.
Of course, it could be that Ballmer will still be running things years from now, and that Microsoft might be back to do keynotes. So final isn’t exactly correct, but it seems likely.
The Keynote Begins
We’re staring with an intro to Steve from CES president Gary Shapiro. He’s talking about how when Bill Gates did first CES talk, he turned up with his head in a book and later talked about how consumer electronics would be social. Then how Microsoft has talked for 14 years. But change is important and “we agreed to a pause” between CES and Microsoft about Microsoft always keynoting.
“I would be shocked if a Microsoft speaker does not return.”
Now Steve has come out. Gary gives him a little gift. Steve says, let’s get started. Movie time of past CES talks.
Ryan & Steve Talk
Now our host, Ryan Seacrest. Mentions has worked with Microsoft in the past, especially with Bing. And that he’ll be doing a conversion with Steve. Calls Steve out. What can we expect?
Steve talks tablets, Xbox but ends about the Metro user experience. “I think people will be kind of pleased” with it.
Let’s start with Windows Phone, says Ryan.
“I’m really excited about where we are,” says Steve. Different approach, unique experience. All phones connect with social networks, email, “blah blah blah blah blah” Steve says. “What we’ve really done with Windows Phone is have a better way.”
“Windows Phone is the first phone that put people first.” He pulls out his Windows Phone to show Ryan, shows he missed a call from Bill Gates a few minutes ago. Demonstrates how the people he cares about are all laid out.
“It all gets put together for you, right there on the screen” and not just having to check email.
Windows Phone Demo
Now Derek Synder comes out to demo Windows Phone. Talking about the “People Hub,” all the people he cares about coming together in one place (I hate these things on my Android phones, but that’s me).
Showing a contact card for people on the phone, how they are connected to various accounts, a way to see your past history of talking. It’s hard to hear because apparently the entire Windows Phone team is sitting behind me and either cheering or laughing among themselves about inside stuff they’re getting as he talks.
Now he’s sent a text message in the middle of an IM, “and everything works perfectly” he says, to laughs.
Talking about Metro, and how the tiles aren’t just links to apps but the content behind it. Recipes, weather, movies, expenses, all pinned to start screen. “I’ve even got my boarding pass” and when he clicks, takes him right to the content
Bing! “Bing brings the world’s information to your finger tips.” He’s looking for a phone, says Bing’s a “decision engine” and goes into Local Scout. But we can’t see, because there’s a tech glitch. Now it’s fixed.
Can see all the “highlights” in a local area. Can see reviews and other information or connect to apps like Open Table to do a booking. And he’s done.
Nokia Lumias Coming
Back to Steve. Range of devices is amazing, Nokia partnership is now going bigger in North America this year, two Lumia models will be coming to consumers in Canada and the Lumia 710, Nokia’s first Windows Phone in the US. The 800 phone will be in the growing base of Microsoft stores in the next few months.
But what he’s pumped up about are 4G LTE phones, and the Nokia Lumia 900 is that. And he pulls one out. “It’s really an incredibly phone, it’s blazing fast on the AT&T LTE network.” (which I’m using now to live blog via an Android phone, and it does rock).
See some of the Lumia news here on Techmeme.
Now he’s showing the HTC Titan II. High res camera, other wonderful things.
Shifting gears to talk about Windows PC. Ryan says “you’ve got some tough competition.” Steve says competition is great, “and I’m glad we’ve got Windows.” Today, over 1.3 billion Windows PCs are in use, great brand, great tech.
But things change. And people don’t want to compromise on what they have today. Windows machine has evolved, music machine, video machine, we don’t give up anything.
“With Windows 8, we’ve reimagined Windows.” Will deliver “the best of the PC and the best of the tablet.”
Ryan asks about Windows 7 hardware now. Steve says lots of form factors, smaller sleeker devices. And here’s a video of some Windows 7 devices.
Windows 8 Demo
Tami Reller, CMO of Windows is out now. She’s talking Windows 8. “It’s a new way of thinking about your PC.” Will give power, mobility to move between what they want to do and need to do.
Information already shown on the lock screen, you can customize it as you want. And when you start, it shows a tile view (this is the Metro framework) similar to Windows Phone.
There’s a thing called “Charms” that will connect your apps to information. Hmm, maybe it’ll be clearer when we go along. Launches a finger-painting app. It takes up the entire screen, and swiping to top or bottom brings up commands when needed.
Windows 8 will run on x86 and ARM. Means Windows for the widest range of devices, including tablet. And she’s showing a tablet from Samsung with an Intel i5 processor. Same device developers were given last fall. Window Tablet, I kind of want to play with one.
Developers can write once and have it work across platforms.
Windows Store Comes In February
Now we’re going to the Windows Store, “the source for free apps or try apps” to purchase. [Because of course, everything has to have a "store' these days.]
Getting a game now called “Cut The Rope.” [Because if we don't have some Angry Birds-like game to show, it's not a new platform.]. And we’re playing the game now. Even the Microsoft cheering squad is finding it tough to yell “woo” at this.
The Windows Store will open in late February, and it will be global and in all languages that Windows is offered in. It’s not just for consumers, either. Businesses can use it to deliver apps for customers and employees.
Showing how you can touch to find an app in the store, mentions that touch works as well as a mouse in Windows 8.
Using “Semantic Zoom” to group apps, sorry, that got by me.
There’s a thing called “App Contract” that lets your apps pull form other apps. She’s got a recipe app up, swipes her finger from the right to bring up Charms for a mac & cheese recipe to use a “Friend Send” app to send a message to her husband with the recipe. “I was able to share this recipe without leaving the app.”
Now talking about how apps can work together. She’s putting two apps side-by-side, saying the apps know how to best format themselves.
Now she goes to a newsreader app, where she’s going to launch the Metro-style Internet Explorer. Site fills the page. When she scrolls, she says panning smooth, scrolling is easy, so is zooming she says. I guess. Potentially seems more control that gestures on Mac, but we’ll see.
Next big Windows 8 milestone will come in February. “We hope you’ll download it.” If she means this is the first consumer beta downloads for Windows 8, wow, bury the lead. I suspect she’s talking about a developer version, we’ll see.
Now showing various laptops which are all amazing, she says. “This is the perfect time to get a new Windows PC. Windows 7 today, Windows 8 tomorrow.”
“Every Windows 7 PC Will Be Ready For Windows 8″
And we’re back to the Ryan and Steve show. “Every Windows 7 PC will be ready for Windows 8 from day one” and mentions the Windows 8 preview, so I guess it’s out there.
Ryan says it’s time to check in with people in the room and online. We’re getting the “Tweet Choir” coming out. Which seems to be a gospel group gone, I dunno singing about hashtags.
Bing As Xbox’s Siri
Talking Xbox. “It’s part of our DNA we’re proud about,” Steve says, talking about bold bets, listing stats about how big the platform is, including 40 million Xbox Live subscribers. Increasingly not just gamers but families looking for entertainment. “Did I expect it 10 years ago? I bet on it 10 years ago,” about the success.
Talking about Kinect and Bing together. “You just say it, and Xbox will find it.” It is pretty cool — here’s me playing with it a few weeks ago:
Craig Davison is coming out now to talk about the new Xbox. He’s saying things to make the Xbox find stuff on the platform all while sitting on a couch looking at a TV.
“Now with Bing, you say it, and Xbox finds it.” And man, Craig’s voice is golden.
He’s doing more searches, told Xbox to look for Star Trek. “And there’s the movie I’m looking for.”
Now he’s got one of those new Lumia phones and showing how it can be used as a remote. He’s opened the ESPN app on the phone, and that’s making it show up and play on his TV. Kind of like, you know, Apple AirPlay.
Xbox To Get Fox Content
Now he’s telling the Xbox to bring up a TV program guide, 26 channels from Verizon, live, on Xbox. So it’s like TV, except with less TV. But hey, I do love Xbox.
Partnership with News Corp to bring Fox app with things like The Simpsons and Family Guy on demand to the Xbox. Which is like how Google TV totally fails — because Microsoft has cut a deal to make this happen, while Google is still stuck being blocked.
Kinect For Sesame Street
OK, someone new has come out, sorry, didn’t catch who, and there’s a lot of Sesame Street stuff going on. A woman and a little girl. She’s asking the girl if she ever sings and dances to TV. Yes. Does it respond? No. Guess what’s going to happen.
Grover has spilled all his coconuts and asking for help to throw them in his box. The little girl is encouraged to make a tossing motion on the screen. There’s a coconut into the box (I think, I looked down and missed it).
She’s throwing again. Yep, there’s the coconut showing up on screen. Now she’s throwing really hard and really high. A long dropping sound, and now Grover has yet another coconut.
Now Elmo’s World is on, and the little girl is being projected into the TV picture. That’s Kinect Sesame Street TV, coming later this year.
Kinect For Windows
Now we’re talking about what might come. Well, we’re being shown a movie. Now Steve’s back. Kinect is coming to Windows in a few weeks, he says.
Other things, Office 2010 is selling well (Office 2011 for Mac isn’t mentioned).
Bing has reached 30% marketshare in combination with Yahoo and helped people accomplish tasks.
Next? Metro & Windows
But what’s next Ryan says? Windows 8 says Ballmer.
“It’s everywhere” he says of the Metro interface, from phones to tablets to PCs.
“Metro will drive the new magic across all of our user experiences,” Ballmer says. “In the new math of Microsoft, Metro will mean 1+1 really does equal three.”
“So in 2012, what’s next? Metro, Metro, Metro, and of course, Windows, Windows, Windows,” Ballmer says. And with that, we’re done.
And I’ll close with this picture from earlier, a scene that really struck me, Ballmer during one of the demos, staring out and watching the audience reaction:
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