CES 2009: Summing up Ballmer's first keynote [day 2]

CES 2009: Summing up Ballmer's first keynote [day 2]

Summary: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer just wrapped up his first CES keynote, and I left feeling...vaguely satisfied.

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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer just wrapped up his first CES keynote, and I left feeling...vaguely satisfied. Not excited, or bored, but mildly hopeful.

Clad in a burgundy v-neck sweater, a sprightly Ballmer kicked his speech off with gusto, proclaiming, "I'm ready to go and I'm here," and cracked a few jokes ("People are wondering why I keep ignoring [deposed Yahoo CEO] Jerry Yang's friend requests"), too.

Some talking points in the order they came up:

  • Last year, Microsoft invested more than $8 billion in research and development.
  • The primary goal: To converge the PC, phone and TV ("Life Without Walls")
  • 1 billion people in the world have a PC -- which means 5 billion don't have anything. Important: OLPC, Netbooks
  • More than 1 billion mobile phones were sold last year, and for many, that's their first experience with a computer. Next year, 50% of the market will be smartphones.
  • "The boundary between the PC and the TV will dissolve."
  • Soon, the PC will be able to hear and see you -- with the cloud as the connecting fabric among the three aformentioned devices.
  • Ballmer, with a straight face: "The linchpin? Windows." At this point, the crowd produced a muffled laugh. Ballmer continued, mentioning the "choice" and "value" of PCs.
  • "I am a PC...and proud of it!"
  • "We are on track to deliver the best version of Windows ever." That means it will boot quicker and use less battery life.
  • NEWS: Windows 7 Beta available NOW and it will be available for public, worldwide online trial on Friday.
  • NEWS: Windows Live Essentials will be available globally for free, there's a partnership with Facebook with it, and another partnership with Dell to have it pre-installed on all their machines.
  • Eleven different mobile phones have sold 1 million or more units.
  • NEWS: Partnership with Verizon: Live Search on phones.

It was at this point that Windows 7 Beta was demoed. Cool tricks:

  • When comparison shopping in IE, snap windows to each side of the screen and they'll automatically be sized to fit the screen together (think customized "tile" function).
  • Networking - the "Home Group" makes networking a two minute process, rather than two days, and you can send info around (example: sending music to the XBox in the living room).
  • Windows 7 touch support: a Google Earth-like "globe" map was shown and manipulated.

Other demos: Windows Mobile phones that can advise (with real-time suggestion boxes) and stitch together panoramic shots; home.live.com and its "What's New" feed, tying the social networking cloud together on one site, as well as a right click "inline menu" that helps you do related items, like translating selected text; and some XBox 360 and XBox Live features, including the ability to stream video titles thanks to a partnership with Netflix.

The keynote finished up with some cool education-ready R&D tech, including "digital textbooks" using touchscreens and paper-thin, flexible displays (hello, New York Times 3.0!).

Thoughts

It was overall a good presentation. No barn-burning products, no Microsoft Zune phones, no direct swipes at competitors, save for some of the info at the beginning -- Microsoft is still at its goal of tying all its products on various platforms together, but the challenge for them is to do so without being too proprietary. Partnerships were a large part of the presentation, which is encouraging -- but I'm still not convinced.

As for Windows 7, the big debate is, "will it win over WinXP users?" As I type this on that very OS, I can say that my heart had little flits of excitement for what's to come -- the strong focus on "intuitive" features is quite reassuring. No one wants innovations that aren't useful in a big way, which has been Microsoft's problem in the past. If the company keeps that mindset without drinking the Kool Aid too much (newsflash, guys: If I have to use IE to get all this functionality, it ain't gonna happen unless you really show up Firefox and Chrome), they'll be in good shape, economy be damned.

For those of you who saw the webcast: what do you think?

Topics: Windows, Banking, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software, Telcos

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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12 comments
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  • Ballmer, not bad

    It was always interesting to watch Bill mostly because he is the richest man in the world. I always wondered what the richest guy was thinking about. Had to watch Steve just to see what he had to say. Not terrible, not great, not bad.
    compsrt
  • RE: CES 2009: Summing up Ballmer's first keynote [day 2]

    Windows 7 Beta available NOW and it will be available for public, worldwide online trial on Friday.

    That's cool
    shellcodes_coder
  • All I'll say is...

    He's no Steve Jobs. At least he didn't go into Monkey Boy mode.
    gregory.dworak
  • RE: CES 2009: Summing up Ballmer's first keynote [day 2]

    Just for the fun of it, let's compare the keynotes of Ballmer and Schiller.
    Ballmer gets a "good" for telling how many billions Microsoft has spent
    on research (without producing anything worth mentioning) and how the
    next version of Windows will be the best thing ever conceived by the
    mind of man (he hopes).

    Shiller, on the other hand, gets "boring, lackluster, disappointing" for
    introducig upgrades to mature products Microsoft only wishes they could
    equal.

    What's wrong with this picture?
    Userama
  • RE: An itch Ballmer can't scratch

    "I am a PC and proud of it!"

    Those Apple commercials must be driving him really crazy.
    Axsimulate
  • RE: CES 2009: Summing up Ballmer's first keynote [day 2]

    What? While I will say that iPhoto is a nice app, iMovie '09 and
    iWork '09 are extremely disappointing. iWork is playing catch
    up to Office in a very big way. Every one of the new features
    are meant to replicate things that Office has been able to do
    for quite some time.

    On the presentation side of things, I'm sorry to say it, but
    Phil Schiller was dull. I didn't see Ballmer's presentation, so I
    can't comment on it though.
    roboakes
    • @roboakes

      "What? While I will say that iPhoto is a nice app, iMovie '09 and iWork '09 are extremely disappointing. iWork is playing catch up to Office in a very big way. Every one of the new features are meant to replicate things that Office has been able to do for quite some time."

      I would hope so, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc... have been around since around 1983, that's 25 years. iWork has been around for 3 years. But the best thing going for iWork is that it is not bloated. Less features, less code, less code, less bugs, less all of the above, more efficient and easier to use.
      Less face it on any given day, I only use maybe 10% of all of Words features, I'm sure many people use much more than I, but I really doubt many, if any use 100%. iWork maybe a better fit for most people than Word at a much, much better price.
      Axsimulate
      • Everyone uses a different 20%.

        One thing to keep in mind about Microsoft Office.

        It is a common point that people make that most users only use around 20% of the functionality of MS Office. Which is probably true... However everyone uses a different 20% of the functionality. So Microsoft can't just start pulling out "bloated" features.

        Another poor argument is that new code is better code. This is soooo completely wrong. New code is untested code. Old code is tested code with years of reliability and nuances baked in. Also old code gets updated through refactoring during each iteration when needed, making it more efficient while still retaining all updates and bug fixes.

        The only time old code gets thrown out is when the core functionality/purpose of the code is no longer useful or has been replaced by something completely different.
        mikefarinha
        • @mikefarinha

          ?One thing to keep in mind about Microsoft Office.

          It is a common point that people make that most users only use around 20% of the functionality of MS Office. Which is probably true... However everyone uses a different 20% of the functionality. So Microsoft can't just start pulling out "bloated" features.?

          I don?t expect Microsoft to pull ?bloated? features, I don?t even think I suggested it. I was trying to point out, certainly IWork is going to be playing catch up to Word, Word has many years under it?s belt. And while iWork might be underwhelming, it might be a better fit for some people because it don?t have feature bloat and can be had for a considerable amount less than Office.

          ?Another poor argument is that new code is better code. This is soooo completely wrong. New code is untested code. Old code is tested code with years of reliability and nuances baked in. Also old code gets updated through refactoring during each iteration when needed, making it more efficient while still retaining all updates and bug fixes.?

          I didn?t say old code was better than new code just because it?s new. Certainly they both have their advantages and disadvantages, but I can tell you that no matter how old the code may be, there is still a better chance that 1 million lines of code has more bugs than 100,000 lines of code. And not all of Office code is old. It?s a mixture of old and new and everything in between. Don?t get me wrong I like Word and use it everyday, but I would consider moving to a new word processor as long as it does everything I need, compatible with others and cost less than Word. I have been eying up Open Office, and tried it for a bit, but not enough to think about switching yet.
          Axsimulate
    • Microsoft has lost the plot

      The amazing thing about the Apple keynote, to me as a devoted Windows user, is how well Apple is serving its core audience. It's introducing lots of great new stuff that people are going to immediately use and enjoy, while maintaining the core of what makes a Mac a Mac.

      Contrast with Microsoft, which is dithering around with things like 'snapping' windows (barely a feature at all, and certainly not exciting), while simultaneously demolishing the user interface that its user base has come to know and love. Who asked MS to do away with menus? Who asked them to close down the system and waste screen space, so that Windows becomes as single-task-oriented as the Mac has always been? Who asked them to focus on appearance rather than functionality?

      I'm not saying this in praise of Apple or the Mac; I'll switch to Linux long before I go Mac. But I have to seriously envy Apple fans' the support they're getting from their favored technology company. Microsoft has totally forgotten who its customers are, which is a great way of ensuring that it soon won't have any.

      Unlikely? Not at all. They're acting just like IBM did, about the time it became totally irrelevant to the PC business it had created.
      fungo
    • Huh???

      Have you ever taken a look at Keynote??? You know, part of iWork... It runs circles around PowerPoint... You always hear the term, "Death by PowerPoint".. You will never hear, "Death by Keynote"...

      Keynote is the best presentation software the world has seen to date... One of the many reasons you will see at least one Power Mac near the stage at any Microsoft presentation (tons of pics floating around)... Because even Microsoft doesn't use PowerPoint, they use Apple?s Keynote software.... PowerPoint SUCKS!!!!

      No one will argue that MS has the Office community cornered with MS Office but that is mainly Excel.. Excel is extremely powerful and any company trying to take it on, will have their work cut out for them. Word, Exchange, Access, Publisher, etc... Either mediocre to seriously lame... Easy to take down...

      I have no doubts that MS can exist as a company if they fall back on Excel alone... However, they are on the downhill slope and loosing ground daily. Redmond doesn?t innovate... they never have... they don't know how to innovate... The Courts have put the kibosh on their semi-successful monopolizing/brutalizing business plan, so they are now just a big lion sans teeth and claws... Nothing to do but wait until the money runs out as people slowly realize the lion is all show and no bite. "Proud to be a PC"??? No... That is the modern day equivalent of saying you were proud to be horse and buggy man after Ford created the Assembly line.... Just plain stupid.

      Back to Monkey Boy's keynote... Big Giant Bore.... Just like Shillers. But hey, they can?t always be exciting? Besides, we all knew that Balmer the Palmer isn?t capable of pulling a trick pony out on stage. Boy can't even dance... Microsoft.. keep anything secret? LOL.. Yeah Right.
      i8thecat
    • uh?

      What does this have to do with Ballmer's presentation? Are
      we talking about MS or Apple in this post?
      Eleutherios