A few weeks back, Microsoft announced that they would no longer be a part of Consumer Electronics Show, and that they were parting ways after their final 2012 keynote. That keynote has now concluded, and the company has turned away from a historic yearly event they have always been a part of.
The president of CEA took to the stage to announce the keynote and to say goodbye to Microsoft. He pushed that this departure was only a "pause" and that they had invited Microsoft back whenever they wanted to return. He invited Steve Ballmer to the stage and presented him with a scrapbook of CES memories over the year before allowing Steve to begin his keynote.
Microsoft began their keynote with a refreshing look at the company announcements over the years, their keynotes and other major events. This was remixed into a song, created by popular artist Pogo.
Steve Ballmer took to the stage to begin the keynote with the host, Ryan Seacrest who asked "what can we expect from you tonight?" Ballmer replied that "You'll see our future, and that's our fast and fluid metro interface." Seacrest then quipped "When you said Metro you looked at me in a strange way."
Ballmer went on to say that he is "happy with where [Microsoft] is right now" and moved on to focus on Windows Phone. "What we've done with Windows Phone is do it better than the others, you know, the one's with icons" and claimed that "Windows Phone is the first phone to put people first. It's all about what YOU think is important, not what we think is important." The current CEO showed off his phone -- the Nokia Lumia 900 -- which had a number of missed calls from ex-CEO Bill Gates who "wanted to wish him well for the event."
Derek Snyder, Executive Communications manager took the stage to tout Windows Phone Mango once again, and didn't really show off much outside of the Windows Phone we've seen already. He attempted to run a voice demo on stage but the transcription failed to understand what he was saying. We thought Microsoft might talk about the next iteration of Windows Phone, but maybe that's being saved for Mobile World Congress.
Snyder talked about how Windows Phone is "more powerful" than other platforms and doesn't rely on proprietary messaging systems like BlackBerry Messenger or iMessage, and claimed that the company went with the likes of Facebook Messenger and Windows Live to get away from that, although those services are kind of different.
The company then moved on to talk about Windows 8 and the new form factors on PC's -- ultrabooks -- which are coming into style now. After a short video showing off the devices, Tami Reller, Chief Marketing Officer came on the stage to show off Windows 8. As soon as she brought Windows 8 onto the screen, the room went silent, and was filled with the clicking of camera shutters as everyone rushed to get photos of the screen.
It appears the company had a new build of Windows 8 on the device from the slightly differently colored background, but the demo only showed off some small things, such as the Windows store in action, and the companys all new HTML5-based "Cut the Rope" game that's been seen on other platforms. They detailed the Windows store, saying that you can offer trials, paid products and free software through the store, which provides a mechanism to update it in future.
Reller also pointed out that Microsoft allows business' to utilize the Windows Store to distribute their software to an enterprise network, and that controls for this will be discussed further in the future. The Windows store will officially open for business in late February. It's close.
She also reiterated features we've already seen on the Windows blog (not in the developer preview) such as semantic zoom, which allows users to zoom out on their applications and organize them into groups to find them easier. Additionally, it was heavily emphasized that every feature would work with a mouse and keyboard too, even complex ones such as pinch to zoom.
Applications can also now work together in Windows 8, you can opt-in to share information between apps to enable rich content to be shared with another application (such as emailing a friend a recipe) and that developers can build it in right now.
Finally, Reller announced that Windows 8 would be available to the public in beta sometime in February, which would coincide with the Windows store launch. When Seacrest and Ballmer took the stage again, they said that "every Windows 7 PC that's available now will be able to run Windows 8, that's a promise."
The company took a quick break, as they usually do at some point to show some sort of act, and the "Tweet Choir" came on stage. It was not quite what anyone really expected, a group that literally sings tweets that appear on the screen, and was a little painful to listen to. The tweets that came through were unthrilling and Twitter itself exploded with criticism of the move.
After our ear drums had cleared, Microsoft moved on to the Xbox 360. When Seacrest asked Ballmer if he had expected the Xbox ten years ago, he responded "no" but that he was glad the company had made the move. The company now has 66 million Xbox consoles and 40 million Xbox LIVE subscribers, with 18 million Kinect devices being sold since launch.
After demoing the Xbox 360 Metro dashboard, and showing off Kinect integration, Microsoft started talking about the future of Xbox. The company is adding new partnerships with media providers such as News Corporation, Fox, Fox News, IGN and the Wall Street Journal this year, which means even more useful content will be available at your fingertips. "But what's really the next big thing for the Xbox" asked Seacrest.
Ballmer then invited two guests on to demonstrate "two way tv" with Kinect and Sesame Street, which is nothing short of incredible. This demo showed new ways to interact with TV shows, such as the show inviting kids to "fill a box with 4 coconuts" and them needing to pick an imaginary coconut off the ground and throw it at the TV. The technology even automatically recognizes if the kid needs help by getting the characters to work with them on the task if needed.
They also showed that Kinect can bring kids into their world, with the show inviting them in and showing them on the screen, dancing around a cartoon room and interacting with virtual objects. This technology has huge possibilites not only for children, but for changing how TV viewers are engaged by content providers.
Then, Ballmer took the stage for the final time, and was asked by Seacrest "What's next for Kinect?" Ballmer replied with a video which concluded by saying "we asked the world" and the world told them that they wanted to use Kinect even wider than the company could have imagined. For medical products, teaching, booth interaction and more, and so Microsoft unveiled the highly anticipated "Kinect for Windows" device, which will be available February 1.
Ballmer closed with a play on his famous keynote from many years ago, by yelling "METRO METRO METRO" and "WINDOWS WINDOWS WINDOWS" before saying thank you to everyone and goodnight, concluding Microsoft's long history with Consumer Electronics Show. We're sad to see them go, but it's good to see the company being willing to admit when something isn't fitting right anymore, and who knows? They could be back before we know it.