Clouds and Tablets
Ballmer also continued to promote Microsoft's consumer cloud strategy, in which
the company's software interface is ported across multiple devices such as
smartphones, televisions and traditional PCs.
During his keynote, Ballmer helped demonstrate software that allows television content to play on PCs and Microsoft's Zune HD portable media device. He also cited recent deals between Microsoft and automobile companies such as Kia, Fiat and Ford, all of which are apparently integrating Microsoft software platforms into their vehicles.
In the hours leading up to Ballmer's speech, rumors filled the blogosphere that he would introduce a tablet PC built by HP. "Mr. Ballmer will show the as-yet-unnamed HP device, which will be touted as a multimedia whiz with e-reader and multitouch functions," wrote New York Times blogger Ashlee Vance, citing unnamed sources.
Although many in the audience anticipated the tablet PC's appearance, Ballmer held off on revealing that particular device until the very end of his presentation.
"Almost as portable as a phone, but powerful as a PC running Windows 7," he said, holding the virtually button-free flat screen toward the audience. "The emerging category of PCs should take advantage of the touch and portability capabilities."
Ballmer said the as-yet-unnamed device would be "available later this year" and would be able to display e-books, access the Web and play "entertainment on the go." He did not give a price.
The tech world has been primed for the expansion of tablet PCs into the broader consumer and business markets, thanks in large part to the continuing rumors that Apple is developing a tablet PC due sometime in 2010. Although Apple has declined to offer any official confirmation about the tablet PC, further scuttlebutt has suggested that Apple would host an event in San Francisco during the last week of January to announce the device.
If those Apple rumors prove true, then Microsoft's CES maneuver could be seen as an attempt to pre-empt-or at least lessen-the inevitable buzz that will accompany Steve Jobs walking onto a stage with a tablet come Jan. 26 or 27.
"Consumers are saying there's no better time to be a Windows 7 PC," Ballmer told the audience during the keynote. In any case, 2010 will likely be a crux year in showing whether Microsoft's newest initiatives, such as Windows 7 and Bing, will actually thrive.