Steve Ballmer at Microsoft's CES 2012 Keynote

For the last fourteen years Microsoft has been providing the opening Keynote for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), held in Las Vegas. Microsoft had announced that they were no longer going to keynote CES nor were they going to have a Booth. Many expected Microsoft’s last keynote to be a big hoopla. Alas, it was actually somewhat subdued.

As has been my habit for the last few years, I have watched the opening Keynote from CES. I wanted to make sure I did not miss Microsoft’s last. Nobody was really sure what to expect. We were sure we would see a demo of Windows 8 but outside of that nobody was really sure. The final keynote for Microsoft at CES was not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it was not earth shattering.

Microsoft’s overall message was that of Metro. Metro, in case you are not aware, is the interface that Microsoft is using across all of it’s products. This ranges from Windows 8, Windows Phone, and even Xbox 360’s latest dashboard update. Using Metro across all of it’s platforms allows for a consistent look and feel to any Microsoft experience. Microsoft opted to have a conversational style of interview with American Idol’s Ryan Seacrest as host to interview Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Seacrest did get in a joke regarding American Idol.

Microsoft did manage to release some interesting information regarding Microsoft products. Ballmer mentioned that 1.3 billion Windows machines are in use today. This is up from 1 billion in 2006. This is active base, not just licenses sold.

The second item, somewhat regarding Windows, and specifically Windows 8, is the Windows Store. The Windows store will allow Free, Paid, and Trial software. The next milestone of Windows 8 will be the beta. It will be released in Late February. With the release of the Beta of Windows 8, the Windows Store will be opened, for free applications, with the release of the Windows 8 beta. The Windows Store will also allow companies to distribute and update their own internal applications through the Windows Store. Microsoft did re-iterate throughout the keynote that all Windows 7 machines will run Windows 8.

Balmer did state that Microsoft is licensing seven seconds. That would come to around 111 Million new Windows 7 licenses per year. This would be 111 million users who would be ready for Windows 8.

The second third announced by Microsoft revolves around Xbox 360. According to Microsoft there are 66 Million Xbox users. 40 Million of these Xbox 360s are Xbox Live Gold subscribers who turn in on a regular basis. This means 60.6% of all Xbox 360s are tuning in regularly.

The last item announced by Microsoft is regarding Kinect. Microsoft has shipped 18 million Kinect sensors in just one year. This means that 27.3% of all Xbox 360s have a Kinect sensor. This is a pretty good percentage for a console. As more users are using their Xbox 360s for more than just gaming, Microsoft has partnered with both Verizon FIOS and Comcast’s Xfinity to bring shows directly to your Xbox 360.

On the subject of Kinect, Microsoft also announced the release of Kinect for Windows. Kinect for Windows will be available on February 1st. It will cost $249 for the sensor. Some have questioned why so much when the current version only costs $129. Paul Thurrott and Mary Jo Foley have speculated that the Kinect for Windows sensor has an upgraded sensor that will allow for the sensor to be closer than the 10-feet that the Kinect for 360 sensor recommends.

Microsoft’s Keynote did not have it’s blunders. The worst part of the show was the ‘Tweeting Choir’. I understand that Microsoft wanted to do something special, but it really detracted from the entire flow of the Keynote. The group is good, but it was completely unneeded.

Overall it was not a bad keynote. There may have been some sections that could have been removed. But it was a pretty good keynote. Steve Ballmer did not get all “Developers, Developers Developers” regarding the enthusiasm, except for at the end, where I don’t think he could hold it in anymore. If you have not seen the Keynote, check it out at Microsoft’s CES webpage.