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Microsoft's final keynote talks next-gen computing, smartphones

Posted: 19 Jan 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Windows Phone 7? 4G? LTE? 3D TV?

In 1995, Bill Gates first took the CES stage with a workshop. Seventeen years later, Steve Ballmer delivers the final Microsoft CES keynote, signifying an end of an era, but a new chapter in the company's history. The company is set to emerge fully from behind the WinTel duopoly and compete toe to toe in the smartphone, entertainment and mobile computing arenas, a competition defined as much by ecosystems as it is by technology.

Introduced by Gary Shapiro, president of the CEA and who first introduced Gates to the show, Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, tore enthusiastically into a litany of recent and new innovations, starting with a demo of Windows Phones 7 operating system, which he defines as a 'people hub'putting people firstversus the 'sea of icons' on Android and Apple devices. In the process, he announced that Nokia's Lumia 710, with Windows OS, will be available in the U.S. on Wednesday, via T-Mobile. That little tidbit came on the heels of Nokia's own earlier announcement of its new high-end Lumia 900 smartphones for AT&T's 4G LTE network, also running Windows Phones 7, which Ballmer also alluded to.

While the OS looks interesting, it can't go unsaid that a quick demo of the social-networking aspects of the device, which integrates Twitter, Facebook and other media, didn't quite work, a classic Microsoft demo moment, which the audience appreciated.

CES auditorium

CES auditorium after CEO Steve Ballmer gave Microsoft's last CES keynote, symbolizing the end of an era for CES, the WinTel duopoly, Intel and Microsoft itself as it moves headlong into a new phase of toe-to-toe competition for the hearts and minds of the consumer.

Windows Phones 7 was followed by an overview of Windows, which developers first got a look at back in September 2011. Tami Reller, Microsoft's chief marketing officer, calling Windows 8 "a new way of thinking about PCs: it's a no-compromise experience."

What Reller was referring to was the all-out push to take the best of tablets and PCs and integrate into a single OS that is architecture agnostic, in that it can run across either Intel or ARM processors, a major break from the Intel-Windows duopoly against which developers, users, media and governments have railed, despite its success in making PCs ubiquitous and creating a whole new industry.

To ram home the point about architecture agnosticism, Reller pointed out that the demo of Windows 8 was performed on an nVidia Tegra 3, a quad-core ARM Cortex A9 processor.

Features Reller highlighted included a redesigned Start homepage, tiles, the integration of apps all the way to the datacenter and swiping, as well as new features that will add to the technological lexicon, including semantic zoom, charms, and of course the Metro user interface, a major highlight of the new OS.

Reller finished with a review of ultra-portable laptops running the OS, including the HP MV 14 Spectra and the ultra-slim Samsung Series 9: 13 mm thin, 2.5 lb and with a 15-in screen. Dell too will be making a major announcement at CES.

Xbox or bust
It was with the Xbox that Ballmer got particularly animated, and for good reason. With 40 million Xbox Live users and 18 million Kinects already shipped, it's been a boon to the company. However, for the keynote, he had Craig Davison, senior director of Xbox, give a demo of Bing integrated with the Xbox, combined with Kinect-based voice control. Using only voice commands and instructions, he was able to search movies and even search, find and show the Alabama vs LSU game, live.

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