Microsoft’s Ballmer Focuses on Windows 8 in His Last CES Keynote

1/10/12Follow @jpruth

At his curtain call—for the moment anyway—at this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer hyped his company’s efforts to innovate and compete across multiple platforms. Microsoft announced previously that after 2012 it will no longer give the keynote at CES. As they waited for seats Monday evening, some members of the press corps voiced doubts about the weight of Ballmer’s anticipated final keynote. But the Microsoft boss still drew a throng that came to see if the company had any new tricks up its sleeve.

CES, hosted by the Consumer Electronics Association, is an annual conference held in Las Vegas where device makers, software developers, and others in the consumer technology world present their newest offerings and give a glimpse of what is in the works. Though many hopes are raised at each CES, not every gadget or promised innovation arrives on schedule or meets expectations.

For the past 14 years, Microsoft has delivered the keynote address that gets the week-long conference under way. But even though Consumer Electronics Association CEO Gary Shapiro said that Microsoft would “take a break” from the keynote stage, he added that the association would continue its relationship with the company. “I would be shocked if a Microsoft leader does not return to the stage in the next few years,” Shapiro said.

Ballmer, with some help from “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest, chatted about the development of the upcoming Windows 8 operating system and ways Microsoft wants to compete across phones, televisions, PCs, and other devices. “Nothing better than good competition,” Ballmer said.

Perhaps in an effort to shake up the stodgy feel and look of the Windows desktop, Microsoft is taking a new approach in its next version of the platform. “The Windows PC has constantly changed and reinvented and spurred other technology innovations,” Ballmer said. While he talked up the ubiquity of Windows among computers, he noted that users want new features and options. “With Windows 8, we’ve reimagined Windows from the chipset to the user experience,” he said.

Much of that change is being borrowed from the mobile world. It is called the Metro … Next Page »

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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