Steve Ballmer was this year’s Keynote Speaker for CES. In his opening conference he covered pretty much the whole set of products that the company has for consumers. From Xbox and Kinect to Windows; from Windows Phone 7 and small screens to Windows Surface 2.0 and large screens but with a much more compact architecture.
Some numbers mentioned were really impressive, Kinect sold 8 million units since launch date a mere 2 months ago. No specific numbers were given for Windows Phone 7 devices but it was already reported that they were over 1.5 million in the first 6 weeks. Some devices were showcased even with examples of where Microsoft is working with partners to reduce power consumption and enhance the user experience. One example was particularly interesting: the one used by the recently announced ASUS eee Slate where the collaboration between hardware manufacturers and software showed promise. By fusing the different substrates in the screen LCD, digitizer, pen sensors, etc the screen was consuming 20% less power to produce the same brightness than other screen that were not fused together, all this on top of using Gorilla Glass. Gorilla Glass is a proprietary type of screen that is much more resistant to scratches than policarbonate and does not shatter like glass. Earlier, ASUS had announced this tablet as “the most powerful tablet” and indeed, with an Intel i5 core processor, this is in fact the highest performing tablet that can potentially work as a replacement to any decent performing laptop. It is reported to have a 3.5 hour battery.
Windows Phone 7 was showcased with the much anticipated first update. It was demoed with copy-paste, and it was reported to have much better performance on third party applications along with other minor fixes and enhancements. Other sites have reported that this update is ready but is currently awaiting carrier tests and approval. It is was reported that we should expect this update to be rolled out to consumers late January/early February. A very effective approach was taken to this demo, basically showing off how easy it would be to complete 7 particular tasks on a Windows Phone 7. This is exactly what was reported earlier in the conference to be what is gaining Windows Phone 7 more customers. How easy it is to use as opposed to the other OSs.
Windows 8’s guts were shown running on several different devices. In fact the big announcement in this line is that Windows is going to start supporting the new generations of SOC computers (SoC means System on Chip), particularly the ones that follow the ARM specification, in this group were mentioned nVidia’s Tegra line, Texas Instruments OMAP, Qualcomm while still supporting the x86 architecture that Intel and AMD produce. This new line of SoC technologies are the ones that will have extremely low power requirements along with the reduced size. What this means for the consumer is that tablets, netbooks and other devices will not be limited to use the x86 line which, in contrast, seems so power-hungry.
Surface 2.0 was another interesting demo during this keynote. Now, on version 2, the surface computer is no longer a huge block to be used as a coffee table or block in the center of a room. Even though it can still be used this way, it can now be used hanging on a wall due to the fact that it is now a mere 4 inches thick. The surface of the device (manufactured by Samsung) is covered in Gorilla Glass and the pixels themselves now capture IR/UV light reflected from the items placed on the surface. This is much more effective than a camera placed behind, a resistive touchscreen or a capacitive touchscreen. As it was demoed, a piece of paper was placed on top of the surface and the text on the paper was immediately detected on the device. Amazing.
Out of the rumored devices to be announced in this keynote, the big one missing was Microsoft TV, Microsoft’s response to Apple TV and Google TV.