Microsoft’s 2012 CES Keynote

Last night, Microsoft gave their final keynote for CES.  Microsoft’s CEO, Steve Ballmer, was joined onstage by Ryan Seacrest to show all the tasty treats that the software giant is cooking up.

After sharing a lovely bro-hug with Mr. Seacrest, Ballmer touched on the quality of the Windows phone, stating that he believes it’s “the first phone to put the user first”.  From there he gave the stage over to Derek Snyder, Senior Product manager for W7P, who went on to show the phone in action.  Snyder was quick to emphasize how the phone displays information in such a way that a user’s preferences are highlights and easily accessible.  He also showed off some interesting features like speech recognition and information streaming.  Windows Phones can now respond to your voice to input text for messaging.  Although Snyder’s attempt at using the feature failed slightly, it appears to be an useful tool if it will work properly.

While searching, devices can also pull information from other sites and place them into your info pane, eliminating the need to actually browse a site for the info you’re looking for.  The example given on stage was searching for a restaurant.  As apposed to leaving the search bar in order to visit the store’s site to find things like locations and store hours, the phone pulled that info from its website and displayed it in the info pane. This feature will definitely save a lot of time for those reliant on their mobile device.

Some new devices have also been announced, including the Lumia 800 and 900, and the HTC Titan II.   These devices join the already large family of Windows Phones, making for a truly wide variety to choose from.

From there, the stage moved back to Seacrest and Ballmer to comment about PCs, and their evolution.  After a few minutes of sales figures for Windows 7, the floor was turned over to Tami Reller, Chief Marketing Officer for Windows, to talk about Windows 8.  The new operating system is set to work on both tablet and PC.

Tami’s demo  started on the lock screen, which displays important info like battery life, new emails, and notices.  To unlock the screen, she showed a new feature called picture passwords.  A picture of her family was presented, and in order to proceed she had to click certain areas in a specific order.  In this case, she had to click fish heads from left to right.  While simple, this method of unlocking a device is quite interesting.

This brings us to a menu that looks a lot like the current dashboard of the Xbox 360, a new Windows 8 feature called the Metro Interface, with tiles of applications laid out in an easily accessible manner.  These apps can be categorized in any way the user sees fit, to keep everything neat and tidy, and the screen can be zoomed out to view all thumbnails.  To find more programs, a Windows Store will be integrated and will be available in every language supported by Windows.  If you can’t find what you’re looking for, simply typing will bring up an instant search to help you get where you’re going.  If the new layout isn’t your cup of tea, the classic desktop is available to instantly switch to at any point in time, and all applications will work in this mode.  Every PC that currently runs Windows7 will be able to run Windows 8 on day one as well.

After the show of Windows 8, Seacrest and Balmer bantered some more before throwing the stage to Greg Davison from the Xbox team. For the most part, Davison showed off things currently available to any Xbox owner, but some new features were announced.  For Live TV, Comcast Xfinity will be coming soon, along with a new partnership with News Corporation. This will bring Fox, IGN, and Wall Street Journal to an Xbox near you.

The highlight of the Xbox demo came from Kinect Sesame Street TV, an interactive television experience.  Instead of simply watching a show, Xbox owners will soon be able to be a part of it.  On stage, a young girl helped Grover collect spilt coconuts before jumping into Elmo’s World, where her play area was projected on screen with interactive objects.  This new TV experience is very innovative and I’ll be watching it closely in the coming months.

To close, Microsoft’s keynote showed that they’ve got a lot of new and impressive ideas coming down the pipe. While it may be their last outing to CES, they’re certainly closing with a bang.


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January 10, 2012 - 8:30 am

News, Technology