Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer kicks off the official start of CES tonight at 9:30 ET with a keynote speech, and we’ll be following it here.
He’s expected to show some Windows 7 tablets, elaborate a bit more on the next version of Windows which Microsoft demonstrated earlier today, and perhaps show some upcoming Windows Phone 7 handsets and set-top boxes running Microsoft’s equivalent to Google TV.
We’ll be live blogging the keynote right here. Refresh your browser, or click here for the latest updates.
9:32 ET: The show will begin shortly. We don’t know what music they’re playing–SoundHound couldn’t figure it out–but it’s atrocious. Like 1990s era Lilith Fair music, but more down.
9:39: The Consumer Electronics Association is playing a promotional video. If past years are any guide, the keynote will actually begin with the ebullient Gary Shapiro, CEA president and CEO, who will introduce Ballmer.
9:41. And here he is. Mr. Shapiro in the flesh, talking about how great “the CES” is. Hey, now he’s plugging his book, “The Comeback: How Innovation Will Save the American Dream.” It’ll be available tomorrow. Just like George W Bush!
9:48: OK, Ballmer’s finally on stage, talking about 2010 successes like Office 2010, Bing, and Windows 7.
9:50: Now he’s talking up Kinect, which is pretty cool. Xbox Live, Xbox, and Kinect have made this the biggest year in Xbox history. Now they’re showing a video. Weak.
9:54: Ron Forbes is out now talking about Zune on Xbox Live, which was introduced a year ago
9:57: Announcement: this spring, Kinect is coming to Netflix on Xbox Live. Also, Hulu! Coming to Xbox Lie this spring. That’s real news. And you can control both services with Kinect.
9:58: ESPN 3 on Xbox Live, which was already announced.
10:00: Cool, the BCS championship on January 10 will be streamed via Xbox Live’s partnership with ESPN. Forbes predicts an Auburn victory. (He’s wrong.) Now there’s a video showing people interacting using their avatars on Xbox Live with Kinect. They’re arguing about the BCS championship, discussing another TV show, consulting their Facebook friends. It’s all very esoteric if you’re not an Xbox Live user, but no doubt people who use the service find this stuff fascinating and relevant.
10:04: This spring, Avatar Kinect will be a free add-on for all Xbox Live Gold members, letting users control their avatars’ positions and facial expressions via Kinect.
10:05: Xbox Live has 35 million members. Xbox 360 has been the top selling console in the US for the last six months, and Microsoft has now sold about 50 million worldwide.
10:05: Microsoft has sold over 8 million Kinects–way ahead of its forecast of 5 million. Nicely done, Microsoft.
10:06: Now we’re moving on to Windows Phone 7 and its interaction with Xbox Live. Announcement: Fable is coming to Windows Phone 7.
10:10: Lots of promo for Windows Phone 7. Now he’s talking stats–they launched 9 phones, 60 mobile operators, in 30 countries. There are now 5,500 apps available for Windows Phone customers. That’s more than 100 new apps every 24 hours, and more than half of Phone 7 customers download a new app every day. More than 20,000 developers have signed on.
10:12: “Once people see the phone, they fall in love with it.” (Based on personal experience, I have to agree–it’s a fresh take on smartphones, even if it lacks some functionality of the iPhone and Android.)
10:13: Touche–Ballmer is talking about the first update which will add copy paste, performance improvements, and CDMA so it can run on Verizon. Now Liz Sloan from the Windows Phone team is coming on stage to do a demo.
10:18: None of these demos are particularly new, but they do show off how Phone 7 gets you in and out of what you want to do more quickly via “hubs.”
10:19: Honestly, it’s a pretty great product. Microsoft could use some better salespeople though–Liz Sloan is going on about OneNote, which is far from most users’ prime concern. Another reason why Microsoft should open more retail stores.
10:21: OK, copy and paste. We get it. The other stuff like Xbox Live has been around since launch. Cool, but not new.
10:22: Ballmer’s back, and he’s on to the final product–the Windows PC.
10:23: He’s reminiscing about how great Windows 7 was being received a year ago. Windows 7 PCs are the fastest selling PCs ever. (This drives me crazy: Microsoft never mentions that overall PC sales grow every year, so each version Windows will ALWAYS be the fastest selling ever. Unless Microsoft suddenly starts losing tons of market share.)
10:25: OK, now he’s talking about “new, innovative” PC designs. Let’s see some!
10:26: Now Mike Angulio is going to show some Windows 7 PCs. The first shows off Intel’s Sandy Bridge, with an onboard graphics processor. So he’s showing a graphics performance demo.
10:28: He’s using the IE9 Test Drive Web site to demonstrate the graphics processing capability of Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors. Nice enough, but Microsoft has been doing this demo since Mix ’10 last April.
10:29: Cool–a dual-screen laptop from Samsung. It’s using Intel’s Oak Trail processor for mobile devices, and has no fan.
10:30: Ah, now it’s the Asus slate PC…which is perfectly fine, but costs about twice as much as the Asus Android tablets.
10:32: OK, now we’re showing the “really extreme” version of Windows integration–the next version of Surface. It used to be a “big arse table,” now it’s a thin table. It’s still a table, though. The technology is pretty impressive–the Surface no longer needs cameras embedded down in a big table, but the pixels on the screen themselves are acting as infrared sensors. This is neat technology, but useful? Available to consumers? No. It’s still designed for “industrial commercial applications.” You can drop a beer bottle from 18 inches and not break it–great for places like the Hard Rock Cafe. You can also use it to calculate interest rates at your local bank….sorry, I’m not all that thrilled. A great technology in search of a real world use.
10:35: Back to Ballmer: “only the imagination” limits what users can do with Windows PCs.
10:36: Reiterating Microsoft’s earlier announcement that the next version of Windows will support “systems on a chip” from Intel and AMD. They’re making this announcement now–probably a year ahead of release or more–to give hardware makers and app developers get ready. Texas Instruments, NVIDIA, and Qualcomm are all developing systems on a chip for Windows to run on ARM procs.
10:39: OK, we finally get to *see* the demo of Windows running on a SoC–Microsoft refused to allow video before. Note that this is just pre-release code, so it still uses the Windows 7 interface. “A future version of Windows with the current user interface.”
10:41: And here it is: Windows on ARM.
10:42: Word, print drivers, PowerPoint, high-definition video, all running on ARM. Microsoft is pretty proud of this, with good reason–it’s not trivial work. It may not help Windows on tablets, but it’s not easy to do.
10:44: “Whatever device you use, Windows will be there.” That’s a line in the sand–Microsoft’s tablet strategy is Windows. Not Windows Phone 7. Not some new stripped down version of Windows. Full Windows.
10:46: And that’s a wrap.