It has been official for a while - CES 2012 would be Microsoft's final keynote speech for the trade show, and the company would not participate in future shows. The reasons for the decision never really became clear however. This year's keynote speech by Steve Ballmer had much the same highlights as last year, centered around the Xbox 360, Windows 8, and the entire Windows and Live ecosystem. This time around, perhaps the biggest MIcrosoft announcement was the the Nokia launch of the Nokia 900 on AT&T.
Microsoft's Steve Ballmer used his final Consumer Electronics Show (CES) keynote here to talk up Windows 8, additions to the Xbox platform, and the new Windows-based Nokia devices.
But the presentation, which officially kicked off the show, was light on major product news. Ballmer announced that Kinect for the PC will be available on Feb. 1 and the company said News Corp. is bringing its publications to a new Xbox app, but beyond that, Ballmer's keynote was mostly about what's to come.
Rather than having Ballmer roam the stage talking up Microsoft, American Idol host Ryan Seacrest made an appearance and had a "conversation" with Ballmer about Windows—particularly Windows Phone and the upcoming Windows 8.
The biggest Microsoft announcement actually came earlier in the day at the Nokia press conference, when the company unveiled the Lumia 900 for AT&T. The 900 is the third device in Nokia's Lumia portfolio, following the Lumia 800 overseas, and the recently released Lumia 710 for T-Mobile. Though the Lumia 710 was met with mostly lukewarm reviews, the Lumia 900 is more like a mix of the better-received Lumia 800 and the Nokia N9.
A Microsoft exec used a Nokia 900 to show off the Windows Phone interface, and Ballmer pointed to a recent, glowing New York Times report that correctly pointed out that while well-received, the mobile OS has struggled to find users. Microsoft is betting big on its Nokia partnership; pricing and availability for the Nokia 900 has yet to be announced.
Until then, there's Windows 8. Ballmer promised a big "milestone" for the OS next month, which will likely be the public beta. He reiterated that Microsoft has "reimagined" Windows with Windows 8. During a demo, Tami Reller, chief marketing officer for Windows, said we should expect to see Windows 8 on tablets and ultrabooks.
When asked by Seacrest what was next for Microsoft, Ballmer responded with trademark enthusiasm: "WINDOWS! WINDOWS! WINDOWS!"
The only actual announcements, however, focused on the Xbox. Back in November, Microsoft announced that it would launch a Kinect for Windows commercial program in 2012, and that will be released on Feb. 1, Ballmer said tonight. The idea is to take Kinect beyond entertainment and use it for things like healthcare. The company is alread working with more than 200 partners, like United Health Group, Toyota, Telefonica, Mattel, American Express and more.
Microsoft also said it is partnering with News Corp. to bring new apps to Xbox Live that will feature content from the company's publications and TV stations, like Fox Broadcasting, Fox News Channel, IGN Entertainment, and The Wall Street Journal.
"We always try to find the right balance at CES between the year ahead and the one just completed," Microsoft said in a blog post wrapup of the keynote. "2011 is worth one more look back—we fired on all cylinders and the numbers show that consumers are excited about what we have to offer."
The keynote, meanwhile, was capped off by a "tweet choir" that came out and sang Microsoft-related tweets, a la Josh Groban and his Kanye tweet medley.
Tonight's keynote was Microsoft's last. Redmond said its product release schedule no longer coincides with CES; indeed, two of its biggest release in recent years—Windows 7 and Windows Phone—happened in October. There was talk about a riff between CEA and Microsoft over its presence at the show, but tonight, Ballmer and CEA president Gary Shapiro played nice. Shapiro presented Ballmer with some framed keynote memorabilia, and said he was confident that Microsoft would one day return to the CES stage.
Copyright © 2010 Ziff Davis Publishing Holdings Inc.