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CES Keynote

January 11, 2012

The first full day at CES was great, with lots to see and a couple amazing advancements. It all started the night before with the Keynote by Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer.

Like last year, Ballmer didn’t have much to say, but he was helped in saying little by Ryan Seacrest. I’m not sure if this was a good idea though, as the contrast between the clear communication style of Seacrest and the geeky rants of Ballmer were at times awkward and even distracting.

But it was a well produced keynote, with effective demonstrations of Windows Phone, Windows 8, XBox with Kinect, and even some ultrabook glamor shots (although they never used the word Ultrabook – why?).

Windows Phone
Windows Phone was first – and every time I see a demo of it I simultaneously wonder why more people aren’t using it, and see with crystal clarity why it will fail without changes. The people-centric approach is great, and really does add value in a way no other phone has yet done. Grouping social media, other communications like text and email, photos, and pretty much everything by each group of people is an extremely effective way to manage information. Add to that the active tiles, native Office, and some of the other features, and functionally it’s a winner, right?


To understand why not, we need to get through the next two demos.

Windows 8
The Windows 8 demo was similar to what has been done before, showing some of the new features since the last public demo, like photo unlock. It looks peppy, and pretty, and seems somewhere between a simple skin on top of Windows 7 and a full rewrite.

But it still makes no sense to use this clearly touch-based UI with a keyboard and mouse. Sure, I get that it’s possible, but it seems impractical and a waste of time, and will get frustrating quickly. In this case other than a skin on the “normal” way of accessing programs and data, the Windows 8 UI feels like its in your way.

But on a tablet, it’s a whole different story. For a touch interface, it’s a massive improvement over the current “slate” model of layering touch on top of Windows 7. It’s a native touch interface that clearly was designed for touch. In fact, it’s what we’ve been saying for years now – that the new Windows Phone interface should be the tablet interface. Great! Just no idea why it also has to be the desktop/laptop interface.

And already we see some of the issues with the Microsoft approach – there’s almost no mention of Windows Phone or XBox, and the only content mentioned is the App Store. What about all that other content, and the Zune marketplace?  Shouldn’t these all be tightly integrated?

XBox and Kinect
This was by far the most impressive piece of the keynote, and if Ballmer was paying attention, he would take the approach being used within the XBox division and use it across Microsoft.

The XBox demo showed a fully integrated ecosystem (the appropriate, albeit already overused buzzword of 2012). Unified search across all media, human language interpretation, social and mobile fully integrated.

A single place where the hardware takes a back seat to the content and user experience. They’re getting it right!

Sadly, Windows Phone was mostly a remote control, and Windows 8 plays no part. We know there is more sharing across the platforms – like XBox Live on the Phone, and Games shared with the Phone and Windows 8, but that wasn’t the focus.

So if Microsoft is on the right path within the XBox, why can’t they make this their overall approach?

Windows, Windows, Windows
At the end of the keynote, Ballmer summarized his strategy by saying, multiple times in his own special way, “Windows Windows Windows Metro Metro Metro”.  Emphasizing his continued almost blind devotion to Windows, and their new focus on the Metro UI.

It seems like he’s totally missing the integrated ecosystem.  And strangely, they seem to have all the pieces.  And even more strangely, the XBox team seems to get it (within their own world).  But Microsoft as a whole doesn’t get it at all.

As Gary Shapiro seemed to indicate in his intro, perhaps the new Microsoft CEO will have a more cohesive approach to Microsoft and will talk about it when he or she does the CES keynote in a couple years.



From → Internet, TV Hardware

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