Microsoft’s Ballmer keeps audience in the dark

Microsoft was struggling with power problems Wednesday night as Steve Ballmer’s keynote was delayed by intermittent moments of darkness.

Even the backlighted blue screen (of death?) went over to the dark side as the lights failed over and over, delaying the packed out press conference for a good 30 minutes.

Wondering if it was worth the wait? It wasn’t. Ballmer did the unpredictable by being entirely predictable, waxing lyrical about Windows 7, Xbox and Zune and showing off a HP Slate PC which will have Apple patting themselves on the back already.

Bellowing from the stage, Ballmer blasted the audience with his vision of “Screens everywhere, an emerging TV experience and Bing!”

“BING! BING! BING!, we all Bing!” yelled Barmy as he hopped around the stage, pausing only for a brief reality check with the words “at least in my world.”

Cloud computing and natural user interfaces also got lip (and spittle) service by the Microsoft premiere, who admitted feeling optimistic about the explosive growth of the “global middle class.”

“I’m bullish and we should all be bullish,” he boomed.

2009, said Ballmer, had been a year where Microsoft had offered punters “unmatched value and choice,” from products like Xbox to Bing maps. “We know we’re at the beginning of a long journey but we think we’re off to a good start,” he enthused.

Xbox, he said, had been “redefining living room entertainment,” by bringing such wonders as Facebook and Twitter directly to your lazy couch potato self, whilst Bing was not simply a search engine, oh no, it was…wait for it… a “decision engine.” As in, people actively decide not to use it, we presume.

Windows 7, of course, got heaped with mountains of praise by its crazed creator, with Ballmer reminding his audience it was the fastest selling operating system in history and that customer reaction had been “very, very good.”

Ballmer even boasted that it was Windows 7 alone which was responsible for the rebound of the PC industry, with Gartner predicting a 12 per cent jump in shipments in 2010.

PCs weren’t the only things taking flight in 2010, either, said Mighty-Soft’s chief. In car communications systems driven [excuse the pun] by Microsoft software are apparently being adopted left right and center, the Zune music and video service will soon expand to other Microsoft platforms, and as for phones, “We will have a lot more to say about phones at MWC,” Ballmer promised.

After showing off a slew of new hardware, including all manner of PCs great and small, Ballmer turned his attention to the developments his firm had made in the software space, spending a significant chunk of time on the firm’s new MediaRoom software which allows for TV streaming and allows users to record up to four HD channels at a time.

“That is the magic of software,” panted Ballmer, suddenly erupting with a whoop of “Developers baby! I love the people who built this stuff!”

Only towards the very end of an almost insufferably long keynote did Ballmer give the crowd what we had waited so patiently to see, the new HP touchscreen Slate PC. Disappointingly, however, it turned out this holy grail of a tablet was simply an eReader, with Wi-Fi and Windows 7.


As if one eReader wasn’t enough, Ballmer went on to launch yet another, the Blio Reader, which reads aloud, lets you highlight text and watch rich media inside a page. Cool? Yes. Innovative? Not so much.

But if nothing else, the slate at least ensures HP and Microsoft remain bosom buddies for the near future, with Ballmer even announcing that the firm had agreed to make Bing the default search engine on all its machines, with MSN becoming the  default home page for all HP devices across 42 countries.

Last, but certainly not least in the grand scheme of things, Microsoft also showed off its uber impressive, body sensing “project Natal”, which will apparently be available for Xbox 360 by next Christmas, bringing cheers of joy from the crowd.

The technology, which uses a camera sensor to “see” users and allow them to play games immersive using their own body movements has been a long time in development and eagerly awaited by most in the gaming community.

Almost as eagerly awaited as the next version of Halo, which Microsoft announced as being called “Halo Reach”, also coming soon.