Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gave his maiden Consumer Electronic Show keynote yesterday and if it was just as soporific as Bill Gates’ past performances, it mercifully skipped the goofy "future tech" skits that Microsoft’s PR folks used to put Gates through. In a nutshell, the message was "Windows 7, Windows 7, Windows 7" plus the obligatory appearance by Microsoft’s Entertainment & Devices chief Robbie Bach to once again whistle past the graveyard and say that everything on his patch was swell.
“I’m thrilled to announce the availability of the Windows 7 beta, which is on track to deliver simplicity and reliability,” Ballmer said. “Windows 7 and Windows Live are part of an incredible pipeline of consumer technology that is making it easier than ever for people to communicate, share and get more done.”
The beta version of Windows 7, Microsoft’s next-generation PC operating system, can be downloaded today by MSDN, TechBeta and TechNet customers. Consumers who want to test-drive the beta will be able to download it beginning Jan. 9 at http://www.microsoft.com/windows7.
Microsoft also announced the global availability of Windows Live, a free suite of communications and sharing applications.
Actually that’s not all the ten thousand different Windows Live applications, but just Windows Live Essentials, the bundle of Windows applications you will have to download to give Windows 7 the same functionality as Windows XP. In which respect there was good news for Dell customers:
In February, to offer a comprehensive experience for consumers to connect, share and personalize their content, Dell will offer preloaded Windows Live Essentials (a free suite of applications for instant messaging, e-mail and photos that complement Windows Live on the Web) and Live Search on a majority of its new consumer and small-business PCs globally.
No word on how much money changed hands, but bear in mind that Dell is paying to put Windows on their PCs so with this deal they are merely getting a discount for also preloading Live Essentials and Live Search. I am sure Microsoft’s lawyers are making sure it is a separate accounting entry however.
Also announced was the Verizon mobile search deal leaked yesterday:
Under a new five-year relationship that covers mobile search and advertising, Verizon subscribers in the U.S. will be able to use Live Search to search for local business and shopping information; access maps and directions; perform general Internet searches; and find ring tones, games, wallpaper and other online mobile products and services.
More succinctly, Microsoft’s Live Search will become the preferred Web search on Verizon mobiles.
Microsoft has apparently won the bidding war for the Verizon mobile search contract that was rumored last November. According to Reuters:
Verizon Communications Inc has chosen Microsoft Corp to provide Internet search services for cell phones, in what is seen as a blow to rivals Google Inc and Yahoo Inc.
Verizon Chief Executive Ivan Seidenberg said on Wednesday that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer would announce the deal later in the day at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Seidenberg, speaking at a Citigroup conference, gave no further details.
It will be interesting to see what financial terms are disclosed and whether, per the November report, Microsoft is also paying Verizon to use Windows Mobile.
The details of the today’s makeover of Windows Live services for mobile are revealed by Microsoft’s Keith Senzel and Martin Krupicka at the Windows Live team blog:
Great news! We are now live with our new and updated Windows Live services for mobile. Go to http://mobile.live.com from your mobile phone’s web browser and check it out. There are a lot of new features and services that weren’t even available for our beta users. We’re really excited about these new mobile experiences!
The new and updated mobile web services include Windows Live Home, Photos, Profile, People, and Spaces. These complement our existing mobile services, like Hotmail and Messenger. (An update to Hotmail for mobile web is on its way in the coming months – check this blog for more mobile news as it becomes available). With this release, we are extending even more of Windows Live to mobile devices, but with a mobile twist. To get started, all you need is a phone with a browser and a data plan. Using these services doesn’t require a download – all you do is go to the new Windows Live website at http://mobile.live.com.
There are more details by following the link and you can also hit the Mobile Live web site with your PC browser for more information before you try it with your cell phone.
One final word on Microsoft’s confused branding – these enhancements are not limited to Windows Mobile phones (that would be Windows Live for Windows Mobile). Here’s the skinny on how to get the underlying Windows Live mobile application for various phones from a Microsoft comment to the above blog post: