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Liveblogging the Steve Ballmer CES keynote (2010 edition) -- HP Slate, Bing, Blio and more

(updated 5:30 a.m.)
LAS VEGAS--The Consumer Electronics Show's official kickoff happened at the Hiton Theater here Wednesday night, when Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer delivered a keynote address covering the company's current and upcoming products. For the second consecutive year, I liveblogged the speech as it happened. Here is my report:

6:15: So here we are, all several thousand of us in the Hilton Theater, waiting for keynote to start. Questions I have in mind: What sort of sales or audience figures will Steve Ballmer tout for such recent Microsoft ventures as Windows 7, the Zune HD, the Bing search engine and Windows Mobile 6.5? Will he show off the tablet e-reader co-developed with HP that the NYT suggested he would? Will we see a demo of the "Natal" no-controller-required-just-move-your-hands gaming interface? And will he speak the phrase "Windows Vista" at all? (Take a drink every time he does!)

6:34: Announcement: "At this time, will everyone please remain in your seats? We are having a small power problem." Apparently it's being fixed ASAP.

6:45: After a few rounds of flicking lights and backdrop screens on and off, we seem to have electricity squared away. (Yes, this happened at a trade show for the electronics industry.) But Ballmer has yet to make his entrance.

6:53: And we're off, with a montage of CES video clips and photos set to the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling." As usual, Consumer Electronics Association president Gary Shapiro comes out to introduce Ballmer.

7:02: The CES keynote traditionally includes a humorous video clip. This year's entry: Saturday Night Live's Seth Meyers explaining how technology has changed his life. Sample line: "Before Facebook, you had to be in my apartment to see this picture. [Holds up shot of his drunken self] Thanks, technology!"

7:05: Ballmer sets out three themes: software and content for screens of every size, from phones to TVs; data accessible from the cloud (aka, the Internet) at all times; a "natural user interface." Then he throws in a plug for Bing: "We blog, we Twitter, we Bing. I Bing, you Bing, we Bing. Bing, Bing, Bing!"

7:11: Time for the recitation of recent achievements, a standard part of any keynote. Ballmer says Bing will become the default search engine--and MSN the default home page--on HP's computers. (But does anybody pay attention to the vendor-set home page on a browser?) He also reports adoption of Microsoft's Windows Embedded software in cars by Ford, Fiat and Kia. Ballmer cites good reviews for the Zune HD but doesn't give any sales figures. Windows Mobile only gets a few sentences.

7:15: Ballmer's reporting on Windows 7's progress. NPD research data, he says, shows that Windows PC sales jumped almost 50 percent in the week of Win 7's launch. "Windows 7 is by far the fastest-selling operating system in history."

7:21: Ryan Asdourian, a product manager for Windows, comes on stage to show off some new Windows 7 computers. He cites all-in-one desktops from Lenovo, Medion and Sony, some with touchscreen capability; laptops from Asus and Dell (the latter, he shows, is thinner than four poker chips stacked on top of each other); netbooks that he makes a point of saying "all run the full version of Windows 7" (guess Win 7's Starter Edition won't figure into the presentation); and gaming-oriented laptops from Toshiba and Acer with high-end graphics cards (the last supports 3D graphics).

7:25: The demo was apparently going to include a TV with a PC built into it, but Ballmer explains that the power outage "blew the tube" on the set. Oops.

7:28: Asdourian demonstrates the Blio e-book reader software introduced today, showing how it can make a textbook interactive. He and Ballmer then use some of Windows 7's Internet and hardware features to collaborate on a PowerPoint document in the upcoming Office 2010 suite online.

7:33: After a demo of Bing maps and its Streetside mode (like Google Maps' Street View), the two move on to demonstrate how a Windows 7 PC with a CableCard can record four high-definition channels at one time. And--oops, one computer seems to have hung up.

7:40: Ballmer touts Microsoft's Mediaroom--software it sells to subscription-TV services to provide an onscreen interface for their set-top boxes. The new 2.0 version can also run on other devices, such as Xboxes and computers to provide access to the same subscription content with only an Internet connection (consider its uses in the TV Everywhere Web-viewing initiative of Comcast and Time Warner).

7:43: Ballmer points to three "slate" computers from HP and other vendors--tablet, touchscreen devices that fall between an e-book reader and a netbook in capability. He picks up the HP slate, a prototype of a model to ship "later this year"; its color screen shows the cover page of "Twilight," which he then flips through a page or two of.

7:47:: Another Seth Meyers video, in which he recaps "Everything Important That's Ever Happened To The HIstory of Technology" (Frogger, a very large cell phone and dial-up Internet access all make appearances). And then Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's entertainment division, comes onstage to start the next phase of the keynote.

7:51: Bach forecasts 2010 for the Xbox: a variety of sequels to past hits; a new "pyschological action thriller" called "Alan Wake"; and, of course, a new Halo title. "Halo: Reach" will be a prequel to the first Halo title, shipping this fall; we're treated to a clip from the game, showing troops readying for battle.

8:01: Bach notes the social-networking features of the Xbox's Xbox Live online social, including its recent integration of Facebook, and says the service will add games with social features: Your Xbox Live avatar will be able to wander into a "Game Room" to play vintage arcade video games, then you can invite friends to play against you.

8:04: Bach explains the "natural user interface" Ballmer referred to earlier--aka, the "Natal" project. In this, you control what's happening in the game just by moving your body, without holding a controller; a camera sensor track your motions and translate them into onscreen actions.

8:08: Bach says Natal will ship by "this holiday 2010"; it will work on an existing Xbox.

8:10: And that's a wrap--a somewhat abrupt ending, without Ballmer returning to the stage. I suppose they had to cut some of the keynote to make up for the late start. Overall, I didn't see anything too earth-shattering, aside from the unusual number of technical glitches. What did you think? How anxious are you to read a book on a slate computer or play a game through Natal? Did you want to see anything else? Let me know in the comments....

By Rob Pegoraro  |  January 6, 2010; 5:00 PM ET
Categories:  CES 2010  
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Next: CES press-conference day writeup: 3-D on your TV


Uh, I already have a Wii.

Rob, are people visibly quaking about the new Mac tablet or whatever is coming later this month?


Posted by: howardstuff | January 6, 2010 11:17 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like Apple and Google are going to continue to eat their lunch to me.

Posted by: joepar703 | January 6, 2010 11:36 PM | Report abuse

Ah Balmer,
A man with limited vision, proud of a product that mostly works out of the box for a change. Good luck, you're going to need it because the visionaries at Apple and Google are going to produce what others will attempt to copy, and Microsoft's will continue following that famous John Dvorak observation that their motto should be "Not invented here."
Also, good job on all the patent infringements. You follow a long, proud company tradition.

Posted by: jwpulliam | January 7, 2010 12:41 AM | Report abuse

Re 7:25, the Windows TV couldn't work because A TUBE BLEW? What a pathetic, transparent excuse. How did he come up with that one? Did Ballmer hear his father say "a tube blew" in 1958? Who's manufacturing the Windows TV set, Philco? Please, someone introduce the CEO of Microsoft to solid state electronics. When he needs a lame excuse for his newest lame product not working, he shouldn't have to resort to anachronisms.

Posted by: pundito | January 7, 2010 2:48 AM | Report abuse

"a TV with a PC built into it, "
So, an iMac with an ElGato dongle?

Posted by: wiredog | January 7, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Natal? Save me from a TV/DVR using a Windows OS. Linux seems to run my Tivo just fine. Better than fine. And hey, it's free. But that's crazy talk.

Posted by: pmm19519 | January 7, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

I've been looking at e-book readers with interest, but at current prices, a netbook looks like an attractive alternative. After all, netbooks can display most e-book formats, and even Amazon has a downloadable reader for its proprietary format. And netbooks can do things that readers can't - browse the web, play videos, and have color screens. Trouble with a netbook is that you have to open it to use it. A slate or tablet format would solve that. So I've been looking at the Asus T91, and more competitors would be welcome.

Posted by: jcflack1 | January 7, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Oh god, please! Trotting Balmer out like some bloated Steve Jobs is just sickening. And the hype about the tablet PC is almost as bad. The tablet PC is old, as in ancient, technology. It didn't sell in the 90's and it wont sell today. Microsoft's Indian indentured servants have served another Vista. About the only thing interesting about the tablet PC, or any other ventures by the technology has beens like Microsoft, HP, IBM and Dell, is watching them all, but especially Microsoft, bleed money attempting to sell their brain dead junk.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | January 7, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

I watched the presentation on my home computer. BOARING and uneventful. The Gatzer's presentations were more alive and exciting in previous years,or was that COMDEX?. It sounded like the huge audience was sleeping. Perhaps there is nothing new and exciting happening at Microsoft. If you are not into video games, the presentation was a dud.
My suggestion: Steve, if you are not a carismic personality and can't pull it off, hire someone who is a professional who can, or bring back BILL!

Posted by: yussel1 | January 7, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

I have seen mibrooks27 comments at other blogs over several months! Poor guy is constantly mouthing vitriol on those hapless Indian techies, where ever they are and working. Looks like this guy has been without a job for months! Will someone offer him one? Mibrooks may be you can go to India and get away one of their's if you really have the talent??

Posted by: hughes_168 | January 7, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

hughes_168 _ and I have seen your posts, too, Mr. Indian H1-B worker. Wasn't it you that referred to American's as "dumb hicks and red necks"? For my part, I am a working engineer. I actually have more than 50 patents, thank you, and advanced degrees in Mathematics and engineering (and a B.S. in Computer Science). I am concerned about the future of my country in allowing foreign tech workers to displace U.S. workers. It has discouraged an entire generation of college students from going into Mathematics, Science, Engineering, and computer studies. Our college students aren't stupid. When they see millions of their own citizens loose their jobs to foreign workers, whose sole "talent" is they work for next to nothing as indentured servants, they avoid those careers. This has undermined the national security of this country, The sooner we round you and your ilk up and ship them back home, the sooner we can return to greatness. As for now, companies using Indian and Chinese guest workers can produce nothing better than garbage like Vista and old failed ideas like the table computer.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | January 7, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully the lackluster "kickoff" to CES isn't indicative of the week ahead. New technology will drive retail sales and help our (US and the World's) economic rebound. As some pundits here have noted, we don't need more of the same - Do we need documents by committee? No - nor do most people need new versions of MS Office to do their jobs. The good news, from what has been reported here, is that the computer will get us up off our sofas and get us moving. Natal - meet the Wii, or Intel's "Me 2 Cam" or... Bringing existing innovations to the masses is good but developing new technology is the key. And to do that we need to educate kids, no matter which country we speak of. Math and Science need to be emphasized in elementary and middle schools. Kids need to see the potential, both economic and entertainment i.e. "fun", of math and science studies. We as adults need to support our local schools and push for more science and math emphasis. Volunteer to help Science Fairs, and organizations like Science Olympiad. Kids need to see adults having as much fun with science as with sports and music. Get off the sofa and in the game!

Posted by: dotdash | January 7, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

dotdash - Again, if we simply protected the jobs of U.S. engineers, scientists, mathematicians, and computer programmers, we would have lots of students "doing well" in math and science. Our college students are as smart as any in the world. Motivate them to go into careers like engineering and they will.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | January 7, 2010 8:20 PM | Report abuse

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