Julie Jacobson / AP
Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
2011 International CES
Beyond the Sun
What was most notable about Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s keynote address Wednesday night was not what he announced, but what he didn’t.
Ballmer quietly kicked off the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show with a handful of small announcements, but they weren’t the major product releases tech bloggers and writers have been teasing for weeks.
There was no talk of Microsoft’s plans to compete with Apple or Google TV, no Windows 8 release and, most notable, no announcement on the company’s plan to enter the tablet market.
Instead, the bulk of Ballmer’s talk focused on recapping the company’s success over the last year.
“2010 was a very, very exciting year for our customers. We launched the Windows 7 phone, Office 2010 and Kinect,” Ballmer said. “With the amazing success of Windows 7, it’s truly been a year like no other.”
In November, Microsoft released Kinect for Xbox 360, its controller-free gaming experience. Initially anticipated to sell 5 million units during the 2010 holiday season, Ballmer said, the company sold 8 million sensors worldwide in the first 60 days.
Consumer Electronics Association analysts noted Tuesday that Kinect is one of the fastest-selling consumer electronic products in history.
Kinect not only allows users to play controller-free but scroll through TV and movies with just the motion of their hands through the Zune marketplace on Xbox Live.
And Xbox 360 users are about to have more controller-free entertainment options.
Microsoft announced Wednesday that Netflix and the Hulu Plus subscribers service will be coming to Kinect this spring, allowing users to stream video directly to their TVs with the ability to rewind or fast-forward with the wave of a hand.
While Kinect currently only monitors body motion, Ballmer announced the device will have the ability to recognize facial expressions starting this spring with Avatar Kinect.
The service will allow Xbox 360 users to talk, laugh and show emotion to other users through their avatars, taking interactivity with the Kinect device one step further. Ballmer said Avatar Kinect will be available for free for Xbox Connect Gold users this spring.
Such services and innovations have driven sales of the Xbox 360, Ballmer said. The gaming system — the original version launched nearly a decade ago — has sold more than 50 million units worldwide, Ballmer said.
Last year also brought the release of the Windows 7 phone for Microsoft. The phone now has more than 5,500 apps available and 100 become available to users each day, Ballmer said.
“When I get a chance to show people a Windows 7 phone, the feedback that I hear is very, very gratifying,” Ballmer said. “People tell me how snappy it is, how easy it is to use and how personal it is.”
The Windows 7 phone is currently only available through AT&T, but Ballmer said a version of the phone with Sprint and Verizon networks is coming in the first half of this year.
He also said users can expect software updates this spring that will add support for copy-and-paste and improve performance when switching applications.
Ballmer and Mike Angiulo, a Microsoft general manager, wrapped up by showing off a few new Windows 7 PCs, including a Samsung Slider PC 7 laptop that flips into a tablet and a dual-screen Acer laptop.
Ballmer noted seven new Windows 7 PCs sell every second, making the software package Microsoft’s fastest-selling product ever.