LAS VEGAS — An energized and enthusiastic Steve
Ballmer gave his final International CES keynote with
help from “American Idol” host Ryan
While the Microsoft CEO did not
make any major product announcement,
the crowd was treated to demos
of the Windows Phone and upcoming
Windows 8 operating system.
The keynote marked the end of a 14-
year run that first saw Microsoft founder
Bill Gates kick off CES with a speech,
followed by four years of Ballmer taking
over the duty after Gates retired. The
2012 version was more upbeat than
Ballmer’s previous efforts as he happily
bantered back and forth with Seacrest
in between product demonstrations.
Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) president
Gary Shapiro introduced Ballmer, giving a quick rundown
on the history of Microsoft at CES.
“Microsoft always did the first keynote because it
drove press interest and attendance and its technology
drove the industry,” Shapiro said.
Microsoft announced in December that it would no
longer exhibit at CES nor give any
more keynotes. The company stated
the show no longer coincides with its
product introduction timing.
Shapiro painted a brighter picture,
saying Microsoft was simply “taking a
break” and described the decision as
mutually agreed upon by the CEA and
Microsoft. He also left the door open
for Microsoft to return at a later date.
Ballmer looked back on his and
Gates’ speeches at the show.
Ballmer and Seacrest then sat down
and discussed what Microsoft had
brought to this year’s edition of CES.
The first category was the Windows Phone operating
Ballmer said he was very excited over the OS, calling
it — along with Windows 8 — focus points for the company in 2012.
Ballmer announced that the Nokia
Lumia 900, running Windows Phone,
would be available on the AT&T 4G
network, but pricing and shipping
were not disclosed.
The HTC Titan II Windows Phone
also will be available on the AT&T 4G
network. Next up was a long demo of
Windows 8. Ballmer did not use his
final CES appearance to announce a
ship date, but he did say a major milestone
will be reached in late February,
with shipping to follow at a later date.
The product demo focused on the
upcoming Windows App store, which
will open in late February. It will house
free and paid apps that can be used
across all Windows 8 devices.
The biggest news of the keynote
was reserved for the Xbox Kinect.
Ballmer said the game console is
now used more for entertainment purposes
than gaming, and that it is being
expanded with the addition of Comcast
Xfinity to the console in the near
Microsoft has also inked a deal
with News Corp. to host its programming
on the Xbox starting this year.
Microsoft has also been working
with the creators of “Sesame Street”
to develop an interactive version of the
popular children’s show. This season’s
shows have been enhanced so a child
using a Kinect can directly impact and
participate with what is happening onscreen.
The Sesame characters have the
child to do something, and the child’s
reaction appears on the screen. The
Kinect can also judge the degree to
which something is done. If the child
winds up and throws hard, the object
travels farther on the TV.