Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer gave an excellent keynote presentation on last night at CES, demonstrating the broad footprint the company has across all digital platforms. No longer just a mega-coroporation that sells Office or Explorer, they are now deeply into search (Bing), television (Microsoft Home) and gaming (X-Box 360).
Despite the power/technical problem to start the presentation (apparently this happens every year) that caused 5,000+ attendees to wait close to 30 minutes, the presentation was substantive, visually stimulating, and demonstrated how far Microsoft has come.
But something was missing. Despite Ballmer’s best attempt at energy, it just wasn’t there. He showed a funny video featuring Seth Meyers talking about the impact of technology (“Thanks, Technology”) on his life, and there was barely a ripple through the crowd. Ouch.
Ballmer showed off new laptops that are smaller, thinner, and amazingly functional. His demonstration of the power of Bing (watch out, Google – they position this as a “Decision Engine,” which by implication and in practice is more powerful than useful than a “Search Engine”), Blio (more on that below), a killer presentation on Xbox 360 in 2010 (they’re actually in the movie business now), and more was awesome. But there were no standing ovations, no cheers, no passion. (It makes you really admire the way that Steve Jobs is able to whip up a frenzy when he takes the stage.)
Yet, Ballmer had some significant announcements and demonstrations:
Bing is going to be the default search engine in all HP computers.
Ford is rolling out the next generation of Sync.
Microsoft just signed a deal with Kia for a Sync-like system called UVO, which is based on speech recognition.
The Zune is being integrated into Xbox 360 and Microsft Home – you can now view PPV movies and programs that you watch at home on your mobile device.
Coming soon: 3D gaming on your laptop.
Three new slate PCs in various sizes coming out later this year.
Game Room, which will provide access to hundreds of “classic” games like Centipede.
And a visually awesome demonstration of what’s being released on Xbox 360 later this year, Blio is their new reader that takes devices like Kindle to a whole new level. Demonstrated on a PC, it enables students to read textbooks, but also to watch embedded videos and even have the content read like an audio book. And it's intereactivity with Explorer 7 and Office functions like PowerPoint is impressive.
And the coolest part of the presentation was Project Natal – which enables players to engage in games on Xbox 360 without the use of a controller. My family has a Wii - this has the potential to blow that away. It is set for release for Christmas 2010 and is pretty amazing.
There’s no doubt that Microsoft has come a long way from the early days, and while I’ve never been to MacWorld, I have a feeling that there's a huge difference between the culture of Apple lovers and PC lovers (also demonstrated in those television ads).
Consumers love Apple. Consumers use Microsoft. Apple is hot. Microsft is cool (cold?) and functional. Apple is the girl you want to date. Microsoft is your efficient secretary.
There’s no advertising or marketing that can change that.