Microsoft has taken a lot of heat over the past couple of years - from myself included - for being late to the game in mobile phones and pretty much staying away from the party when it came to tablets.
But if the latest rumors are to be believed, Microsoft may be the one to get the TV experience right. The XBox Kinect could be Microsoft's answer to hold the keys to living room computing.
Not quite a year ago, I blasted Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for a no-news opening keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics Show. At the time, I pointed out that the only thing that the company seemed to be getting right was Kinect, the motion-sensing technology that raised the bar in gaming on the XBox.
A report on a European gaming site suggested that the next-generation Kinect would be so powerful that games will be able to read lips and track the pitch and volume of voices, as well as facial expressions, to measure emotional states and detect when players get angry.
Admittedly, that kind of creeped me out. I mean, what's next? A Kinect that can read my thoughts? But that's when it started to sink in. Once I got past the creepiness of the Kinect's eyes watching my every movement to learn more about me, I realized that this could be the key to delivering next-generation television in a way that Google and Apple still have been unable to do.
Will the TV experience of the future know when I'm in a mood for some good comedy based on an upbeat tone in my voice and a smile on my face? Maybe it will know when I'm getting bored with a slow-moving football game by the way my eyes wander and offer up a sitcom or maybe even a few YouTube clips instead.
Adrian Kingsley-Hughes: Do you want a Microsoft Kinect built into your TV?
Of course, I'm speculating about all of this. The Kinect 2 "news" was just a rumor and Microsoft isn't confirming anything. But given the breakthroughs in motion-sensing technology and even some call-center technology that senses when my voice gets louder and more tense, it's easy to let the imagination wander and think about what Microsoft could do with this technology.
I have been a fan of the Google TV concept in the past - but have argued that that blasted computer keyboard has no business in the living room. Nearly a decade ago, I saw one of Microsoft's first demos of a PC-connected TV and aside from being a PC tower in an entertainment center, one of its biggest downfalls was the mouse and keyboard.
Wouldn't that be something if Microsoft was to retake the lead in the next wave of consumer "computing" by reinventing the living room TV experience? Seeing how Apple and Google still haven't gotten the formula right, there's still time for Microsoft to come in and redeem itself, taking the lead in an evolving technology after so many years of getting it wrong.
Suddenly, I'm wondering what Ballmer will have to offer during his CES kickoff keynote.
- Microsoft readies new Kinect hardware for Windows PCs
- Microsoft adds Windows 8 support to its Kinect development kit