Ballmer lands keynote at CES 2011 but can he make it to January?

Ballmer lands keynote at CES 2011 but can he make it to January?

Summary: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has scored a spot on the CES keynote schedule but can he make it to January, given the company's track record under his leadership?

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I know I'm subjecting myself to (even more) bashing for writing the following, but it was one of the first thoughts to pop into my head when I read this morning that the time and date have been set for Steve Ballmer's keynote speech at CES 2011.

CES 2011? That's in January. Will Ballmer even be around then?

It's one of those things that's been swirling in my head about Microsoft - and actually took center stage in my thought process when I wrote a post yesterday about the embarrassment spread across Redmond after execs killed the KIN mobile phone.

Granted, the KIN was only one product in a larger pool of other offerings from Microsoft. But, it was an important one because it gave the general public a sense of the lack of focus and bad decision-making that's going on in Redmond. And when shareholders take a look at the common denominator on this - and other - failed ventures, they'll likely be looking to the top of the pay scale for answers - and blood.

Let's stop here and create a quick Microsoft scorecard to see how things are progressing under the Ballmer Administration:

  • Mobile: Clearly, the KIN was a flop. And, isn't it kind of funny that references to the mobile landscape are always centered around iPhone, Android and BlackBerry. When was the last time you heard someone get excited about the forthcoming arrival of Windows Phone 7 and talk about how it will rock the mobile landscape? OK, putting Microsoft shareholders and employees aside, when was the last time you heard anyone else talk highly of Windows Phone 7?
  • Tablet: Well, Ballmer killed the Courier. Or someone at Microsoft did - but surely not without Ballmer's permission. OK, so they killed a tablet PC project. Big deal. Isn't that better than launching a loser (like they did with KIN)? But it wasn't so much that they killed it as much as it was the extra line in the company's official statement that declared "no plans to build such a device right now." It seems that tablets are all the buzz right now, sparked largely by Apple's iPad. And Microsoft has no plans for one?
  • Software/OS: Regardless of what you think about Google, the cloud and even the Mac, you cannot ignore the fact that Geese that lay Golden Eggs at Microsoft - Windows OS and Office - are getting old. There's fresh competition from all over - and this isn't just the Mac vs. PC sort of competition. There's excitement around the launch of tablets running Google's Chrome or Android OS. Clearly, Apple is gaining some ground from its switch campaign. And companies are being given real options for productivity software from online providers.

The point of all of this is that Ballmer, as the CEO of Microsoft, seems to have spent quite a bit of time riding on the successful coat tails of Bill Gates - but really hasn't done much to elevate the company further, XBox being the exception.

Last month, my colleague Jason Hiner posted a chart looking at Ballmer's performance, compared to Bill Gates' - and it didn't look pretty. In that post, Hiner also wondered how Ballmer has managed to avoid coming under fire for Microsoft's shortcomings.

Could things be changing soon at Microsoft? Should they be changing soon? It seems like Microsoft needs a new direction, new focus, new something. I just don't know if Ballmer is the guy to make it happen.

With that said, if I'm the person booking speakers for CES, I just might put Ballmer's name down in pencil, instead of pen. A lot can happen between now and then.

See also:

Topics: Software, Hardware, Laptops, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Tablets, Windows

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  • RE: Ballmer lands keynote at CES 2011 but can he make it to January?

    Actually, I hear a lot of excitement about the forthcoming Windows Phone 7 platform. In fact, I'm continually amazed at the excitement building within the developer community for this device. Granted, the developer community isn't necessarily the target of this device, however, it is an indication that there will a wide variety of apps at launch time.
    roteague
    • Excitement we've seen before

      @roteague -

      Same excitement we saw for PaysForSure, and the Zune, and the Xbox 360, huh?
      daftkey
      • Talk about 3 different products!

        PlaysForSure: Successful at the time, it was the first (and only) attempt at allowing music that was legally purchased online to be played on more than 1 device.

        Zune: While never successful, it has been widely praised by reviewers as a fantastic hardware / software combination. The whole social aspect and subscription implementation has been done better in Zune than on any other platform, bar none.

        XBox 360: Doing fantastically well - http://www.engadget.com/2010/07/07/bloomberg-estimates-xbox-live-to-be-worth-1-billion/
        Not bad!!!
        NonZealot
      • Xbox 360 is doing well...

        @NZ... because every owner has had to buy at least two of the dang things since they came out, because they had such a high failure rate =/>50%. Then not to mention all of the add-ons users have to buy...

        Bigger hard drive, non standard connector, $$$, still limited to what MSFT offers.
        Wifi adapter, $$$
        Xbox Live Gold Memebership $$$ (Silver Membership is useless. You can't take advantage of Netflix, or play any game besides the arcade online with silver, You must pay the $50 per year to do so)
        The upcoming EyeTo... err Kinect $150

        MSFT nickel and dimes the user all the way to bank on the 360 product line. Yes the newer model has Wifi built in, but that should have been from the start, still non-standard HD connector I believe.

        I like the Xbox 360, I own two myself, and disposed of my 1st on due to failure, for a total of 3 consoles, but MSFT really did take on Apple's mantel with that product.

        What I really miss, is when Nintendo had the N64 out, you could send it in for a flat rate of $60 for repair, with all of your controllers and games, and they send it back making sure everything worked, replaced any buttons or covers, and clean, even 2+ years after the initial purchase, they even replaced the controllers if they thought they were going bad. Now that was service, I used it once after my N64 had a button the seized up on the top of it.

        Actually I still have that N64 still to this day. I have lost the controllers, and most of the games for it, due to moves, and so forth, but I still have the console, and one game for it.

        I wonder if they still provide that kind of service to this day, I think I will call them and find out. Not likely though. Now days if it is out of warranty buy a new one.
        Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
      • RE: Ballmer lands keynote at CES 2011 but can he make it to January?

        @NonZealot <br><br><i>PlaysForSure: Successful at the time, it was the first (and only) attempt at allowing music that was legally purchased online to be played on more than 1 device.</i><br><br>At what point was PFS ever successful, and what exactly constitutes success to you? There's lots of first attempts in this industry (big whoop), but having wider success is something totally different. That was the goal after all right, for MS WM/DRM (aka PFS) to be widely accepted and used in favor of FairPlay/AAC, and slowing down iTune's rise? <br><br>Zune superior social? The only social I knew of Zune was sharing restricted DRM music with other Zunes at close proximity. But most users kept wifi off because it drained the battery (what's the point?). And they may have made subscription music a little tastier for the small few that like subscription music. But hardly anything to boast about.
        dave95.
      • @dave: Thanks for admitting you've never even seen the Zune software

        [i]The only social I knew of Zune was sharing restricted DRM music with other Zunes at close proximity[/i]

        Then you've never even seen the Zune software once. You are dismissed. There are plenty of social aspects in Zune that have nothing to do with squirting. You would know this if you had ever used the product you were slamming.
        NonZealot
      • @JM: proving the point

        [i]because every owner has had to buy at least two of the dang things since they came out, because they had such a high failure rate =/>50[/i]

        The failure rate has actually cost MS a lot of money. XBox isn't successful because of the failure rate, it is successful despite the failure rate. The fact that people are willing to put up with the high failure rate (at least in the first couple years) is indicative of just how superior the system was when it was working. And the generations after the first have been [b]much[/b] improved although I'm sure the haters will continue to trot out that statistic for years to come.

        [i]Then not to mention all of the add-ons users have to buy[/i]

        Well, you don't [b]have[/b] to buy anything just like you don't [b]have[/b] to buy a case or apps or iTunes music for your iPhone. That MS (and Apple) have been able to monetize accessories for their products is great business. Nothing more. Nothing less.

        The truth of the matter is that the console market has very healthy competition. If you don't like the XBox, switch to Nintendo or Sony. You yourself admitted though that you liked the XBox. If even MS haters like you have to admit that they like the product, then it is fair to say that the XBox is doing well [b]despite[/b] the failures and not because of them.
        NonZealot
      • I used it...

        @NonZealot <br><br><i>"Thanks for admitting you've never even seen the Zune software"</i><br><br>Actually I just recently uninstalled the Zune Software after having it for a few months. Honestly I gave it a try and found myself frustrated. Going from iTunes to Zune was like going from a big city with everything to see, to do and to buy, to going to some back woods. And this speaks to MS problem at large, what compelling feature are there in Zune/ and Zune Market Place to really grab consumers attention? Subscription?
        dave95.
      • @dave: Sure you did

        [i]Actually I just recently uninstalled the Zune Software after having it for a few months.[/i]

        Having it reside on your hard drive and actually using it are 2 different things. That you can't name a single social feature other than squirting, betrays you for the liar that you are. Here, why don't you read up on it since you can no longer try it out for yourself:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zune_Social

        [i]to going to some back woods[/i]

        LOL!! 6 million songs is "back woods"? LOL!! You are really reaching now! Using that argument, no one should ever use OS X because when you look at application support, going from Windows to OS X would be like going from the big city to the "back woods"!!! LOL!!!

        Besides, all the Apple zealots go on and on about how they never buy media from iTunes. I guess you guys only bring it up when it is convenient for you.
        NonZealot
      • RE: Ballmer lands keynote at CES 2011 but can he make it to January?

        This happens to every successful company: the very things that make them successful become the cement shoes that take them to the bottom. MSFT has no tablet? It cancelled its smartphone? Of course. Those are things that HP and Dell want to do, and HP and Dell swing very big bats in Redmond because they are the two biggest customers for Windows and Office. Dell can undoubtedly make a very cost-effective tablet. Maybe it will run Win 7. Maybe it will run Android. For sure it will run Android if MSFT competes with Dell for the hardware $$. So MSFT is hamstrung. Same with HP: MSFT probably knows that HP's future mobile stuff will probably have Palm software, but they can't risk upsetting the possibility that HP will use Windows instead. So they sit there, cancelling KIN and Courier and anything like either of them, while the world goes by, because doing anything else kills the Golden Goose.

        So instead the Golden Goose is left alone, to die one day of old age.
        Robert Hahn
      • Failure rate of 50%??? Ha! What a joke.

        @JM1981
        I own an Xbox 360 Elite and I have never had a moments problem. Counting my relatives and friends I know that own Xbox 360's I know of at least another 6, maybe 7 and none of them have ever failed.

        Yes, we all heard about a number of the 360's that had some problems when they first came out but we also know the failure rate wasn't anything remotely like 50%. Not even close to being in that league.

        I'm sure these clowns that post such nonsense think it adds an air of serious drama to their claims when they exaggerate to unrealistic extremes, but, it dosnt. What it does do is negate any air of reality to anything they said before or after. It in effect makes them into a liar for the whole world to see.

        These types might just as well be wearing a sign around their neck that says- "WHEN SPEAKING-OPEN MOUTH THEN INSERT FOOT".

        I imagine we have all seen the 54.2% reported failure rate. For those who believe that I cant imagine they thought about it much. Lets just be real for a second and think about it. Anything that you might want (providing its not something you need to stay alive) that has failure rate of anything close to 50% will not even sell after awhile. It would be impossible to keep the public uproar down. Who would buy such a thing once they found out?

        Can you even imagine purchasing something for hundreds of dollars knowing there was a 50% chance it wouldn't work when you get it home??? And it dosnt end there! When you bring your replacement home there is still only a 50% chance the new one would work. With all the Xbox's sold there is no question that with a 50% failure rate there would be many who might actually hit the unlucky roll several times in a row. Flip a coin and see how often you can get the same side to come up several times in a row. There would have been numerous horror stories of persons bringing their Xbox home and having to replace it 3, 4, and maybe even more times before the coin toss finally went their way! All we would need it one or two stories like that in the news and it would have resulted in an Xbox boycott.

        Generally speaking, nothing, at least certainly not in the field of luxury items like an Xbox, sells for long if they have a failure rate of anything like 50%.Failure rates of 50% in this sector of the electronics market place would be suicidal for any product if it went on for any noticeable length of time.
        Cayble
    • The problem is...

      winmo is dead (or at least in it's dying throws) and it will take something VERY new and exciting for mobile 7 to turn that around. This area is just something MS does not excel at and to avoid further embarrassment, should focus on their strengths (if there is such a thing at MS these days). Sorry but shoehorning a desktop OS into a phone is a bad idea to start with and I don't know many people who want a phone that has to be rebooted from time to time.
      Dave32265
      • Rebooting phones

        [i]I don't know many people who want a phone that has to be rebooted from time to time.[/i]

        Having to reboot Android and iOS phones hasn't seemed to hurt them. Actually, I had to reboot my BlackBerry the other day after updating the app store.

        You Apple zealots sure are funny creatures!!
        NonZealot
      • RE: Rebooting phones

        @NonZealot

        For the record: I have never had to reboot my iPhone after installing any of the couple hundred or so apps that have graced it.
        jmiller1978
      • RE: Ballmer lands keynote at CES 2011 but can he make it to January?

        @Dave32265
        This time I agree with NonZealot, daily I reboot my iPhone; shut it down each night. Check with AT&T, they say to do it at least a couple times a week. Why? They update their tower info so, rebooting updates the phone with that new tower info. Do not know if it is true but, that is what they told me.

        When I was with Verizon they said the same thing. For their OTA system to work updating the phone the phone needed to be rebooted. At that time, years ago, Verizon told me to reboot the phone a few times a week. I do not find any negative issue rebooting a phone.

        NonZealot, yep I am a Apple kinda guy, our extended family is as well; once upon a time we were all Windows folks. Maybe we are funny creatures at that, not too much different than when I was a Windows bigot. LOL.

        NZ, have a good day.
        BubbaJones_
      • @NonZealot

        for the record I am not an Appl Zealot. I don't even own a Mac. Yes I do have the Iphone but I have yet had to reboot the phone once.
        Dave32265
      • RE: Ballmer lands keynote at CES 2011 but can he make it to January?

        @Dave32265
        [i]I have yet had to reboot the phone once.[/i]

        I've yet to get any malware on any of my Windows systems. Huh, guess that means that there are no Windows viruses... according to [b]your[/b] logic.
        NonZealot
      • @NonZealot

        @NonZealot
        Guess no more, NonZealot! For I too have yet to get any malware on my Windows systems. That TWO whole points of data. I guess we can relegate Windows viruses to not but myth and legend!
        ericesque
      • RE: Ballmer lands keynote at CES 2011 but can he make it to January?

        @Dave32265 / jmiller1978
        Actually, the iPhone is not immune. YMMV, but your experience != the entire community's experience.
        View from Here
    • @Dave32265: You just didn't learn your lesson the first time!

      [i]Sorry but shoehorning a desktop OS into a phone is a bad idea to start with[/i]

      Funny thing is that it is Android (Linux) and iOS (OS X) that are both desktop OSs shoehorned into a phone. Windows Mobile, from the very beginning, has been based on an OS that has never been put on a desktop.

      So when you say this is a bad idea, you are actually talking about how bad of an idea Android and iOS are and how great WM is. :)
      NonZealot