Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took center stage at the opening of the International CES Jan. 7 to announce that Microsoft would release a beta version of its new Windows 7 operating system this week. In addition, Ballmer announced new partnerships for its Windows Live Essentials product, including a deal with Dell that will allow Microsoft to pre-install Live Search with Dell's consumer and small business PCs. Earlier in the day, Microsoft also struck a search deal with Verizon Wireless.
LAS VEGAS -
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took the stage
at the beginning of the annual International CES expo and announced that the
company would release the beta version of it upcoming Windows 7 operating
system by the end of the week.
In his Jan. 7 keynote at CES, Ballmer announced that the
beta version of Windows 7 would be available to MSDN and TechNet subscribers immediately.
Microsoft also plans to make the beta version of Windows 7 available to the
general public later in the week.
"We are on track to deliver the best version of Windows
ever," said Ballmer, who did not offer specifics of when a full version of the
Windows 7 would hit the market, although some believe Microsoft will deliver the
new operating system to replace Windows Vista by the end of 2009 or early 2010.
"Windows 7 should boot more quickly, offer better battery
life and have fewer alerts," said Ballmer, adding that the new operating system
will also have a better, more interactive user interface and allow PC makers to
offer more touch-screen capabilities with desktops and notebooks.
Besides the Windows 7 beta announcement,
two new partnerships that should significantly expand the market for Microsoft's
Windows Live Essentials. The first deal will allow users to connect Windows
Live Essentials to Facebook. The other, more significant announcement involves
Dell, which will now pre-install Windows Live Search and Essentials with all of
the company's consumer PCs, as well as its small business desktops and
Earlier in the day, Microsoft also announced a deal with Verizon
Wireless, which will allow Microsoft to install Live Search in those phones
that use Verizon software. The deals with Dell and Verizon should help
Microsoft as the company looks to compete against Google for a larger share of
the search market.
"Search will become a bigger part of the mobile experience,"
Ballmer's keynote at CES marked a significant shift for CES.
For years, Microsoft founder Bill Gates kicked off the show with an assessment
of the industry and a look ahead at new Microsoft products. This year, with the
U.S. economy in
a recession, Ballmer took the stage for the first time and delivered a low-key
talk compared to some of his other major keynotes.
However, Ballmer did address the economy and he said that
Microsoft would continue to invest in research and development despite the
downturn in the economy. Ballmer said Microsoft spent about $8 billion in
R&D and he expected the company to continue to invest despite the recession.
He added that companies have to continue to invest in the digital lifestyle and
now is not the time to retreat.
Throughout his talk, Ballmer talked about the "three screens"
that are in everyone's life - the PC, the phone and the television - and how
Windows will become the platform for tying all three of these screens together.
Ballmer also talked about how the concept of the cloud - based on Windows -
will deliver content and services to users, especially in the realm of entertainment
and social networking. The deal Microsoft has with Facebook shows the
beginnings of this concept.
"Microsoft is transforming what Windows is - from a PC operating
systems to a connected platform and experience across the PC, the phone, the TV
and the cloud," said Ballmer. "When I think about Windows, I really do think of
our marketing of -Life Without Walls.'"
After Ballmer detailed the company's plans for Windows and Windows
Live Essentials, Charlotte Jones, the Windows 7 group product manager, offered
several demonstrations of how the new operating system will work and how users
can combine the newer features found in Windows Live Essentials for social
networking and sharing content. In addition, Jones said that Microsoft would
offer the new version of Internet Explorer with Windows Mobile later this year.
Finally, Robbie Bach, president of the Microsoft's Entertainment
and Devices division, detailed the company's efforts around digital
entertainment and offered a road map for what to expect from the Xbox later this