Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer and Robbie Bach delivered the keynote last night at the 2010 Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas and it was the usual mixture of self-congratulatory boosterism and product and technology demos. Here is my list of highlights:
After a report on how well Windows 7 is selling, there were the PC demos including a prototype Hewlett-Packard slate PC that the technical press was pining for.
It looks like a touch enabled netbook to me and while it may have a niche, I suspect I would be screaming for a keyboard (or at least a stylus) in under a minute of usage. Perhaps more interesting were the ultrathin Lenovo A300 laptop with a 21.5" screen and the Sony VAIO home entertainment notebook with a 24" screen. How big does a laptop have to get before it becomes a single element desktop?
HP is making Bing the default Web search engine and MSN the default home page on all their PCs in 42 countries.
Ballmer put the usual lipstick on this pig and Robbie Bach appeared later to flog upcoming games (including another lucrative Halo version) and tout Project Natal, the motion sensing technology that will appear later this year to replace the standard controllers for some games.
Bach also announced Mediaroom 2.0, the latest version of Microsoft’s IPTV offering for service providers which now supports PCs and smartphoes as well as set top boxes and Xbox consoles for TV viewing.
Microsoft really did not have much of its own to show again this year. I am almost beginning to miss the goofy Bill Gates future technology skits.
Microsoft (MSFT) disclosed in an SEC filing on Friday that it has sold its entire 7.3% stake in Comcast (CMCSA) Class A common stock. Microsoft had owned 150,935,575 shares.
In a research note this morning, Bernstein Research analyst Craig Moffett notes that Microsoft’s initial $1 billion investment in Comcast came in June 1997, triggering “a monumental cable rally, one that arguably lasted almost ten years.”
The point apparently was to boost adoption of Microsoft set top boxes in the cable TV industry. How’d that work out?
As Moffett notes, the initial investment included a commitment from Microsoft to buy set-top boxes from Microsoft. He says Comcast in 2004 “dutifully” bought 500,000 boxes, “and then reportedly left most of them to molder in a warehouse.” Comcast also licensed a Microsoft programming guide. By 2007, he adds, Microsoft’s software was deployed in just a single Comcast market – in Seattle, near Microsoft HQ in Redmond. And in May 2007, Comcast pulled the plug on even that system, switching to its own home-grown guide.
Today, Microsoft’s largest TV software client is Comcast competitor AT&T (T). “Twelve years after their initial Comcast investment, Microsoft’s vision of a Windows-based gateway to the television still hasn’t materialized,” he writes. ”
You have to know when to hold them and when to fold them and there is nothing like a recession to clarify perceptions in that regard.
This week the US National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) are holding their annual convention and Microsoft was there touting their wares. The big Microsoft news was the announcement of some new reference content provider customers and the promise for later this year of DRM (AKA copy protection) for their Silverlight “Flash killer”:
Today Microsoft unveiled details of Silverlight DRM, Powered by PlayReady, the content protection support coming later this year in Silverlight. Silverlight DRM builds on Microsoft’s extensive expertise and experience in content protection and support for hundreds of millions of media players and devices worldwide.
In addition to being compatible with the broadly deployed base of Windows Media DRM 10 content, Silverlight DRM will support live streaming, on-demand streaming and progressive downloads for connected experiences. With the extensibility and openness of Silverlight, third-party solution providers will also be able to build and offer content owners additional choices for their media protection needs.
Microsoft apparently intends to continue their dominance in commercial media DRM software and connoisseurs of the genre will recognize PlayReady as Microsoft’s DRM successor to the the ill-fated PlaysForSure technology that Microsoft threw overboard (along with some unfortunate partners) when they released the Zune.
Bill Gates delivered his last Microsoft keynote at the International Consumer Electronics Show yesterday and it was fortunately missing a lot of the goofy geek tech of recent years although the more staid and occasionally self-congratulatory tone has drawn some complaints about lack of Microsoft innovation (, [ 2]). You can catch the replay video online, but here’s a rundown of the new announcements: