Ballmer Keynote Fails to Excite

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2010-01-07 Print this article Print

5. Nominal upgrades galore

Just about every announcement Ballmer made during his keynote involved relatively minor product upgrades. For example, Microsoft talked about Bing Maps and the new features that will work with the service's Streetside feature. Some might like to add a snowflake effect to Streetside, but the fact that that option even made its way into the keynote tells you what happened on Jan. 6. There was simply nothing revolutionary that would get users excited.

6. Iterative PC updates

Microsoft also spent an inordinate amount of time talking about all the different PC options available to customers. Ballmer and a sidekick showed off desktops, notebooks and netbooks. But a quick glance at those devices reveals a serious problem for Microsoft and the entire Windows ecosystem: There's little innovation in PC design. The notebooks looked just like notebooks of old. The desktops, while featuring touch technology, still perform the same basic functions. In other words, they're boring. And they lack an aesthetic that can match anything from Apple.

7. The Google competition

Ballmer had the opportunity during his keynote to share just how Microsoft plans to compete with Google in 2010. Instead, he said Bing would be the default search engine in HP computers and provided a few more details on the service. It's not enough. He didn't talk about future improvements to Bing that would push search forward. He even failed to talk about its online advertising efforts. Microsoft might have plans, but so far, no one knows what they are.

8. Windows 7 talk

Ballmer spent considerable time discussing the value Windows 7 has already provided to customers. He even talked about sales figures. But he spent all that time without discussing any improvements to the platform. How will multitouch play into Microsoft's strategy? Will it improve Windows 7 Starter Edition? When will Service Pack 1 hit the market? What will be in it? We were left with more questions about Windows 7 than answers.

9. Where's Courier?

Prior to the keynote address, there were rumors swirling that Microsoft would announce its own brand of slate PC, called the Courier. It didn't happen. Instead, Ballmer spent time showing off products from third-party vendors. That doesn't necessarily mean that Microsoft won't be releasing Courier or something like it in the future, but it was disappointing to see that the company doesn't have a product to take on Apple with.

10. The Microsoft excitement is gone

Going into 2010, some folks (including myself) were excited to see what Microsoft was preparing for the new year. It seemed at the end of 2009 that the software giant was finally realizing what it needed to do to dominate in an increasingly competitive market. But after the keynote address, it's clear that Microsoft hasn't changed nearly as much as some might have liked. There was nothing announced at the keynote that will drastically change Microsoft's ability to confront threats in the marketplace.

All in all, it was a lackluster showing for Ballmer and company at CES this year.

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at

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