ces_logo_2011.jpgMicrosoft (news, site) boss Steve Ballmer's keynote took a look into a varied future for the Seattle giant in the wake of turbulent times.

Catching Up

Microsoft must have been feeling pretty pleased with the early feedback for its Windows 7 operating system as it evolved. Unfortunately, as the OS neared release, the market shifted seismically. Suddenly smartphones and netbooks were all the rage, leaving the company pointing in the wrong direction.

While Windows 7 has done much to restore Microsoft's pride and boost the company's profits, it is now under assault from the tablet generation. Microsoft's attempt to play in this space has been rewarded with overpriced, battery-hungry, chunky machines that aren't doing what the new generation of users want or expect.

To address that problem Microsoft yesterday showed off a future Windows product that will run on ARM processors, allowing the next-generation system to match Android 3.0 and future iOS offerings in the tablet space.  At the same time, Windows Phone 7 has given it a credible player in the smartphone market.

So, To the Future

Unfortunately, whatever Microsoft has on its mind, it couldn't spit it out very well (as others have pointed out) given the open forum and massive audience of a CES keynote. What was said was highlights. The video is below, for those equipped with Silverlight.


So, what we did get was some news on Kinect sales, with 8 million shipped, which, as a technology, has bags of potential in the future of web engagement. Imagine watching where a user looks on the screen, what attracts their attention -- literally tracking eyeballs -- all without the need for expensive user testing sessions and so on.

By about Kinect 3.0, this could be a standard feature as fidelity improves, privacy issues aside and the same tech is already shipping to PCs after launching for the Xbox 360 console thanks to ASUS with its PrimeSense units.

Hitting Big Numbers

Ballmer also said Windows Phone 7 has shipped 1.5 million units and offers Office compatibility in ways that no other phone system does. Windows 7 OS is expected to ship on over 400 million PCs this year -- a huge number in spite of the efforts of tablet makers.

Many of those PCs will feature Intel Sandy Bridge processors, that Ballmer also showed off. These will offer the next level of improved PC performance for complex tasks and improved security features.

So, Microsoft's core products are safe but will it be able to cope in the nimble future? It is clearly making the right developments, but will they ring true to the increasingly picky and choice-rich consumer?