It’s always exciting to attend the CES keynote. This was the second year that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has had the honor of presenting the night-before keynote and, as a speaker, he did well.
On the PC front, we saw new slate form factors from HP and others. On the Xbox side, we saw a new mystery/film noire genre game, a new version of Halo, the new Xbox Game Room service that will feature numerous classic arcade games and Project Natal, the forthcoming Xbox innovation that will let you use your own body as the game controller. We learned that Natal would ship in time for the next holiday season. This was hoped for when Microsoft first showed Natal at the E3 gaming conference last year, but it took until this CES for it to be officially confirmed.
The keynote also covered Bing, Bing Maps and even Office 2010, with a demo of collaborative PowerPoint editing over Windows Live. Microsoft MediaRoom, its cable TV/IPTV platform was shown and we learned that a new version will work on existing PCs, Xboxes and phones, rather than requiring a dedicated set top box. Speaking of phones, some new ones were shown, including the new HD2 from HTC. It’s a nice phone (I tried it out today myself), but it’s still, of course, based on Windows Phone/Mobile 6.5.
What I found striking was that this year’s keynote really focused on the same things as last year’s: Windows 7, Xbox 360, Windows Mobile 6.x and a few other products. Nothing was discussed last year about Bing, of course, because it had not come out yet. But even Bing fits this pattern: most of what was discussed in the keynote focused on past achievements, rather than new announcements.
We saw nothing of the “Courier” slate, nothing of Windows Mobile 7 (although we did learn that WinMo7 will be discussed at a future wireless industry conference) and no new demos of Natal. And all this reminded me a bit of the Day 1 keynote at this year’s Professional Developer’s Conference – what we got was a progress report on last year’s announcements, rather than any major new ones.
I think that’s too bad. Not every year can be a big newsmaker, but if Microsoft is going to kick off a a major technology conference, they should have some new tricks to show. Maybe there’s more waiting in the wings. It’s just too bad that none of it could be shown or discussed when all the eyes of the technology world were watching.