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CES 2009: The Lineless Ballmer Keynote

Having attended many pre-CES keynotes headlined by Microsoft’s Bill Gates, I’m used to getting in line hours ahead of time in order to secure a seat at the event that always kicks off CES.

But this year was different. Steve Ballmer was the main act and quite frankly he did not pack them in like Gates.  A conservative estimate of the press and general admission lines is that they were 80 percent shorter then in the past. In fact, expecting the worst I showed up at 4 p.m. for the 6:30 p.m. address and there were only a dozen or so lonely souls waiting in line.

Geez, for Gates people started lining up at 2 and if you showed up later then 4 there was no way you were getting inside.

So, amazed at my good luck I left the waiting area, went to the casino, where my luck held and I won a few bucks, and returned at 5:15. The line was still a fraction of what had been and I managed to snag a front row seat.

Because of my line waiting experience I was half expecting a much smaller turn out for Ballmer. I was wrong. Eventually, the entire room filled up, just at a much slower rate.

However, there was another reason I thought the crowd would be thinner. While Ballmer is the top guy at Microsoft he is lacking one thing. Actually, billions of things. Those being dollars.

I’m sure in the past that a lot of people came to hear Gates discuss Microsoft’s latest  and greatest ventures, but  I think a lot of people simply  enjoyed being in the same room with one of the richest  men on the planet.

I know I fell into that group. I always volunteered to cover the keynote, despite how big of a pain in the ass it always. Secretly, I always hoped Gates would pull an Oprah and give everyone in attendance $1 million.

Well, that never and now my best reason for seeing the keynote has passed into history.