This week I am at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada to see what’s happening with the latest in consumer gadgets. The show kicked off on Wednesday, where I was just barely able to make it to the Steve Ballmer keynote, where he talked about what was supposed to be the “future” of Microsoft. The problem was, as compared to the Bill Gates Keynotes of the past, there was little “future” about it. Ballmer focused on previous products, some that have been out for years now, making the Keynote, as I said earlier on Twitter, well, boring. Based on his Keynote, with all the launches Google and Apple are doing lately, I think Microsoft may really be in trouble!
A very large portion of what Ballmer talked about was focused on Windows Media Center, showing the capabilities it has in the Home Media Center. This is something I have said before that Microsoft has long had a strength in and I wished they would focus on more. I am thinking they’re finally realizing this and trying to get more eyes on it. The problem is, there was no innovation in this area, making the demo a bunch of technology that I’ve been using already for 3 years now! Perhaps I’m the only one, making this “new” to most people.
The rest of the keynote was spent demoing the already-launched Windows 7 and the various types of PCs that run it. There were no real announcements other than the fact that Natal will be launched the end of this year (even though they had no Demo), and that there would be a new version of Halo. Beyond that, nothing.
The Future for Microsoft
Based on the content of Ballmer’s keynote, I have to worry about the health of the software giant for the future. Will they be able to keep up with their competitors, who are already releasing some extremely innovative technology? Microsoft has a lot of potential – I just wonder if they’re behind on getting to that potential.
For example, one of the things they did cover in the Keynote was the capability to download Zune and Media Room videos and play them anywhere – on your TV, on your computer, or even on your phone. I think the full experience is something Microsoft can leverage. Being able to play this stuff anywhere (and I would argue that anywhere should also be my iPhone), is a powerful point for Microsoft! Let’s hope they push this further – from the tablet PCs to the TVs to even the Cars with Sync and other Microsoft technologies I should be able to pass this content around (and preferably in an open manner).
What Will We See From Microsoft?
After this keynote, if I were a Microsoft investor, I would be a little worried right now. There was very little innovation announced the other night! Let’s hope, alongside Natal (Microsoft’s controller-less body-controlled gaming experience) and Halo, that Microsoft can fully integrate their technologies across the board into many parts of each user’s life. Microsoft needs to start embracing their Zune brand more (which, the hardware wasn’t even mentioned during the keynote). They need a brand new, Microsoft-branded phone that they have control over similar to the Xbox. They need a completely brand new interface that integrates Bing, Zune Marketplace, Windows Media Center, Sync, and many other Microsoft technologies that works on Mobile.
If Microsoft can do this successfully (which they were close, but were unsuccessful at portraying during the Keynote), they would have a pretty serious product on their hand. However, I don’t know what Ballmer was thinking during this Keynote. Based on the content, you would think that Microsoft the company was just like the power at the beginning of the keynote – dead.