Microsoft's week involved the launch of the Kinect hands-free controller for Xbox, an update on Windows Phone 7 sales and some clearing of the Silverlight controversy.
Microsoft's week centered on its newest attempt to dominate the living room:
Kinect, the hands-free controller for the Xbox 360, hit store shelves Nov. 4,
and early reports indicate robust sales.
Based on that early retail movement, along with preorders and audience
raised its estimate of Kinect sales for the quarter from 3 million to 5 million
Formerly code-named "Project Natal," Kinect uses a 3D camera to track
48 points of movement on the user's body, and then translates those movements
to an on-screen avatar. Microsoft hopes that a bestselling Kinect will extend
the life cycle of the 5-year-old Xbox 360, and attract the same casual gamers
who made the Nintendo Wii a hit.
Kinect also offers Microsoft the chance to brighten its somewhat spotty
consumer-devices record. Although the Xbox franchise generates revenue, products
such as the Kin phones and the Zune HD either failed to attract a mass audience
or else outright crashed and burned.
Microsoft's plans for 3D-sensing technology likely extend beyond the gaming
realm. The company recently agreed to acquire Canesta, which makes 3D-image
sensor chips and camera modules that can be embedded in everything from laptops
to vehicle dashboards. With that technology installed, those products can offer
gesture-driven natural user interfaces, similar to what already exists with Kinect.
"There is little question that within the next decade we will see
natural user interfaces become common for input across all devices," Jim
Spare, president and CEO of Canesta, wrote
in an Oct. 29 statement posted on the startup's Website
Microsoft's breadth of scope from enterprise to consumer products, market
presence, and commitment to NUI, we are
confident that our technology will see wide adoption across many applications
that embody the full potential of the technology."
Microsoft can also perhaps take heart in reports indicating Windows Phone 7,
its new smartphone platform, is selling well in international markets. DigiTimes
reported in a Nov. 3 article
that sales of HTC-build
Windows Phone 7 smartphones are "better than expected" in Europe
while stocks of the HTC HD 7 and HTC
7 Mozart apparently sold out in Germany.
In addition, U.K.
retailers have reported limited supplies of the devices.
"Early supporters of the new operating system such as South
Korea's Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics
are also experiencing rising demand from carriers," the article suggested,
indicating the sales information came from unnamed "Taiwan-based handset
Unlike the Apple iPhone and Google Android, which rely on gridlike screens
of individual apps, Windows Phone 7 aggregates Web content and applications
into six subject-specific "Hubs," such as "People" and "Games."
Microsoft hopes the phones will prove popular enough to reverse its eroding
share of the smartphone market.
Microsoft is reportedly willing to spend hundreds of millions in marketing
dollars to ensure the smartphones have a decent chance at success. Inevitably, the
company is also engaging in promotional deals such as free app giveaways
Developers represented another area of focus for Microsoft this past week,
as it moved to clear up controversy surrounding its support of Silverlight. Bob
Muglia, president of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business, wrote a Nov. 1
posting on the Silverlight Team Blog to assure developers that the company is
standing behind the platform.
Muglia felt compelled to write the post after an
interview with ZDNet at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference
which ran Oct. 28-29 in Redmond, Wash. Speaking to Mary Jo Foley, he reportedly
said, "Our strategy has shifted," and that, while Silverlight would
remain a sort of cross-platform glue for developers, "HTML is the only
true cross-platform solution for everything, including [Apple's] iOS platform."
Although that interview's next paragraph featured Muglia assuring readers that
the next version of Silverlight is indeed in the works, his words nonetheless
set off debate over whether Microsoft would curtail the platform.
"During the conference, I gave an interview where, among other things,
I talked about the great work we're doing with Silverlight-in particular,
support for Windows Phone 7, which we featured heavily at the conference,"
Muglia wrote. "I understand that what I said surprised people and caused
controversy and confusion."
Silverlight remains "very important and strategic to Microsoft,"
he continued. "We're working hard on the next release of Silverlight, and
it will continue to be cross-browser and cross-platform, and run on Windows and
Just to ram the point home, he added: "The purpose of Silverlight has
never been to replace HTML, but rather to do the things that HTML [and other
technologies] can't, and to do so in a way that's easy for developers to use."
With regard to the enterprise, Microsoft
also unveiled the final names and pricing for its new generation of Small
, which attempt to walk the line between on-premises and