This article was published 14 years ago

My thoughts on the Microsoft keynote

Microsoft has always been the first to keynote at the Consumer Electronics Showcase. And, as always, something happens that effects the outcome of the keynote.

This is the first keynote not headlined by Bill Gates and was delayed for two hours because of a power failure. That power failure did manage to ruin one part of the presentation.

But with all the problems, the show must go on.

And even with the problems Microsoft had, the keynote was still a dud; there wasn’t anything exciting at the keynote except a new catchphrase from Steve Ballmer.

“We Facebook, We Twitter and we BING. BING! BING! BING! BING!,” Ballmer shouted to the crowd. “We Bing in our household.”

That phrase won’t be taken out-of-context! But at least it replaces the previous one of him shouting “Developers! Developers! Developers!”

Besides the new catchphrase, Microsoft did have a couple of new releases at the keynote. I list three items I though were important from the keynote.

1. TV PC

Microsoft announced two years ago at the same event that the XBOX360 would have the ability to watch live TV. Two years later, that achievement is complete with the announcement of TV PC – the new media center software for Windows 7.

If Microsoft can pull this off, it can be a goldmine for the fading OS-dependent company. What I like about the new media center PC – a.k.a Media Room 2.0 – is the ability to record 4 programs at once and the support of CableCARD. What’s bad about CableCARD – and could derail TV PC – is that the FCC recently ruled that it was a flop and many cable outlets, like Comcast, are moving to a new cable standard called Tru2Way.

The biggest problem for MCPC (Media Center PCs) is that they can’t access the cable providers’ OnDemand content. Microsoft announced that TV PC will be available on AT&T U-verse outlets and can access OnDemand features. When demoed, TV PC not only showed that a MCPC can access the OnDemand features but on a difference cable network, Cox Communications, which is available in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

I can already hear see the excitement of hackers gasping for air when the demoed unit showed a different cable outlet running onDemand content other than AT&T.

What was also eye-opening during the keynote was the addition of a built-in browser that can access networks’ websites. Demoed at the keynote, TV PC was able to access and watch TV shows all within the player. Also shown on the demo was access to PBS and Netflix.

Not surprisingly missing from the list: Hulu.

Again, you could hear the gasp of air at the excitement of a hacking attempt.

If Hulu does get on TV PC – and will eventually – expect more customers to drop their cable packages, especially if their cable outlet is in a dispute with a popular cable channel.

2. Slate PCs

When Steve Ballmer announced the Slate PCs, he figuratively give the middle finger towards Apple.

Almost chanting them with the we were first attitude.

While we’re all guessing that Apple will release a tablet at the January 27 event, Microsoft – and several others – was first to release a tablet, even though we didn’t get an official launch date and a price.

When demoed, the slate was able to run the desktop version of the Kindle reader, something that can’t be done on a Sony e-reader or Barnes and Noble’s e-book reader as well but could be done on an Apple tablet.

Again, Ballmer was really giving two middle fingers;  one to Apple and the other to Amazon

I guess you can call this an update to the UMPCs when they were released at CES as well – and those flopped with the Tablet PCs.

I want to say that this might be good for Microsoft but they’re several hurdles Microsoft has to overcome: we don’t have a launch date, we don’t know how much this unit will cost nor how long will the battery run, we don’t know how will Windows performance on a slower processor or if a legal battle will brew with Amazon.

Even with all the negatives, they can be ignored if review units come out and they become positive. If positive, both Apple and Microsoft can and will kill the Kindle and the Nook.

3. Project Natal

Unveailed with limited details at last year’s E3 gaming conference, Project Natal also made a presence at the keynote – with limited details.

All we got was a ‘promise’ that it will be available for sale in time for Christmas 2010.

No official date, no price.

What was presented to the press was that Project Natal will work with existing 360 models. What was missing was if current games will work with Natal.

If it does come out for the holiday shopping season, this will be another item people will sleep outside for and will go for absorbent prices for eBay.

And expect a counter-offer from Nintendo and Sony at this years’ E3 conference.