When Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took the stage at the Consumer Electronics Show Jan. 6, the tech world was expecting something major. Earlier in the day, reports were swirling that Ballmer would beat Apple to the punch and talk about tablet PCs. It was also believed that he would talk about the future of Windows 7, Windows Mobile 7 and much more. Expectations were high. But for the most part, Ballmer disappointed.
He had the opportunity to set the pace for the tech industry in 2010. He could have come on stage, given details on new and exciting products, and fired a few shots over Apple's bow. Instead, he spent far too long discussing things that too many consumers don't care about and not long enough on those topics that they do want to learn more about. There was no charisma in Ballmer's keynote. The CEO provided the press with very little to take away. And in the end he left the door wide open for Steve Jobs to swoop in and save the day at the end of the month.
Let's look at the various reasons why Microsoft disappointed at CES.
1. Where's Windows Mobile 7?
Ballmer took the stage on Jan. 6 ready to discuss several divisions within his company. He did. But he failed to bring up one of the most important topics of all: Windows Mobile 7. Microsoft's mobile division is in serious trouble. It's trailing far behind the competition and the longer Windows Mobile 6.5 carries that division's banner, the worse it will get. Ballmer had the platform to build hype for Windows Mobile 7. He didn't use it.
2. The 'slate' debacle
Rumors were swirling prior to the keynote that Ballmer would talk about slate computers. And although he did touch on them for a while, it was an all-around poor discussion. He simply pointed to three products that feature slate technology and demoed the Hewlett-Packard device. But most saw it for what it is: a product that's too big for a pocket and too underpowered to get real work done. So far, Windows slates are nice-looking, but seem to lack real utility.
3. The boredom
Ballmer's keynote was a bore. He spent far too long talking about Microsoft's performance and not enough time demoing new products that consumers and enterprise customers would really care about. It's unfortunate. Jobs rarely goes on stage and disappoints. For well over an hour, Ballmer did just that.
4. 'Project Natal'
"Project Natal" could be a groundbreaking product in the gaming industry. The device basically turns the user into a controller. It was discussed during the keynote, but details were slim. For now, we know that it will be coming out by the end of 2010. We still don't know how much it will cost, how integrated it will be with games or which games will support it. We need more details.