Microsoft's week centered on the Consumer Electronics Show, where CEO Steve Ballmer detailed Windows 8 and Windows Phone, and a release date for Kinect for Windows.
appearance at this year's Consumer Electronics Show came with a little bit more
than the usual drama. By the time CEO Steve Ballmer took the stage Jan. 9 to
deliver his opening keynote address, it'd been known for several weeks that
Microsoft was pulling out of the massive show for the foreseeable future.
"We agreed to
a pause," Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics
Association (CEA), which hosts CES, told the audience before Ballmer appeared.
"I would be shocked if a Microsoft leader didn't return to the stage in the
next few years."
That made the
pullout sound like a mutual decision, despite an official Microsoft blog posting in December that
framed it as a unilateral one on Microsoft's part. Ballmer onstage didn't
acknowledge the issue, choosing instead to launch into his presentation with a
brisk, "Let's get started."
Every year at
CES, Microsoft has used that opening keynote to unveil new products and tout
its progress in various areas. This year was little different, with Ballmer
focusing on the Metro design aesthetic that increasingly united Microsoft's
various properties, referring to it as a "star attraction" across "all the user
experiences" offered by his company.
aesthetic is present not only in the company's Windows Phone platform, but also
its upcoming Windows 8. Microsoft used CES to reveal still more about the
latter, which is expected to arrive sometime in the second half of 2012.
want to compromise on what they have today," Ballmer told the audience during
his keynote, referring to Windows 8 and its ability to run on tablets in
addition to traditional PCs. "They want the best of what they have, and the
best of what they want."
Windows' overwhelming market share on PCs, Windows 8 will face some significant
challenges in the tablet arena, where it faces Apple's best-selling iPad in
addition to a variety of touch-screens running Google Android. Those rivals
will surely battle to prevent Windows from gaining traction among tablet users.
used CES to promote Windows Phone. "I'm really excited and upbeat about where
we are," Ballmer said about the platform-an inevitable pronouncement, given his
position. But Windows Phone is also struggling for adoption in the face of
significant competition from Google Android and Apple's iPhone. Nokia, which
decided early in 2011 to abandon its homegrown operating systems in favor of
Windows Phone, launched a set of new devices at CES as part of its attempt to
gain a toehold in the U.S. smartphone market. However, it's an open question as
to whether the Finnish phone maker's latest hardware will attract the necessary
droves of customers to make that happen.
pushed the ultrabook, ubiquitous at this year's CES. Intel and
manufacturers such as Toshiba are offering the super-slim laptops as the next big thing, but whether they resonate with consumers remains to be seen.
Microsoft claims that PC sales will go soft in the fourth quarter because of
supply issues related to the recent floods in Thailand-creating more pressure
on the industry to produce devices that excite businesses and consumers, and
reignite sales in 2012.
also used CES to announce that Kinect for Windows will arrive in February. "We
love the innovation we have seen built using Kinect for Xbox 360-this has been
a source of inspiration and delight for us and compelled us to create a team
dedicated to serving this opportunity," Craig Eisler, general manager of Kinect
for Windows, wrote in a Jan. 9 posting on the Kinect for Windows Blog. "With Kinect for
Windows, we are investing in creating a platform that is optimized for
scenarios beyond the living room."
words, between Windows 8 and the new Windows Phone push and Kinect, it'd be an
understatement to say that Microsoft has a big year ahead.
Nicholas Kolakowski on Twitter
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.