LAS VEGAS – Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer is set to open this year’s Consumer Electronics Show with a Wednesday night keynote, but what should we expect from the software giant?
Microsoft has had a number of high-profile releases recently, including Kinect for the Xbox and its Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system, so what’s left for Microsoft to unveil? The rumor mill has included stories about everything from a glimpse at Windows 8 to a Microsoft TV product.
Tablets, however, are most likely on the agenda. Ballmer actually showed off an HP tablet during his 2010 keynote, which was released in October as the business-oriented HP Slate 500, but a Windows-based tablet has yet to really pop in the consumer space.
In July, Ballmer said he wanted to “make things happen” on tablets, but said Microsoft would not rush into anything. This year’s CES, however, will see 80 new tablets unveiled, some of which will be Windows-based, like the Asus Eee Slate EP121.
Last month, there were rumors that Ballmer would show off a Samsung slider tablet during his CES keynote. Samsung is set to host its own press conference here at CES momentarily, so that could come to fruition sooner rather than later.
Windows Phone 7 was another huge endeavor for Microsoft last year. It debuted in October and Microsoft said last month that it had sold 1.5 million Windows Phone 7 devices; perhaps not a runaway success. Microsoft admitted at the time that “we have tough competition.” As a result, expect chatter about Microsoft’s mobile future. Engadget reports that Microsoft is prepping its first update for the mobile OS, codenamed “NoDo,” which will add copy and paste, CDMA location support, support for additional Qualcomm chipsets, and some bug fixes.
Verizon also has yet to announce a Windows Phone 7 device, but they are likely more focused on their 4G LTE roll-out tomorrow morning than Microsoft.
Microsoft has also been pushing hard on its cloud computing efforts lately, so expect some Windows Live updates.
Another thing Ballmer will likely touch on is the success of Kinect for the Xbox. The hands-free gaming system debuted in November and hit 2.5 million in sales by month’s end. It was also among the most sought-after tech devices during this holiday season. While there probably won’t be any new Kinect-related material tonight (a new game?), Ballmer will likely take the opportunity to champion the success.
What about those rumors?
Windows TV: The Seattle Times reported this week that Microsoft will unveil a Windows-based set-top box. With all the emphasis on the cloud, this could make sense, but similar efforts from Google via Google TV have yet to really take off. Microsoft’s effort would cost $200 and use Windows Media Center, the Times said.
Windows 8: Will we get a glimpse of Microsoft’s next OS? Windows 7 hit the market in October 2009, so a year is likely a bit too early to start seeing anything real on Windows 8. We don’t even know if that will be the official name. Earlier today, however, Microsoft did announce that the next version of Windows will support System on a Chip (SoC) architectures, including ARM-based systems from partners Nvidia, Qualcomm, and Texas Instruments.
PCMag will be at the keynote tonight; check back for our news updates about Ballmer’s announcements and be sure to follow along with our live blog on Gearlog.