Microsoft's keynote at CES this evening felt like a cruel joke. Hosted by Ryan Seacrest and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, the keynote was anticipated widely, especially because it was Microsoft's last appearance on the keynote stage for the next few years. Judging by today's performance, they won't be missed. Microsoft demoed Windows Phone, Windows 8 and Xbox on stage. Virtually nothing shown on stage was new. For close to one hour and fifteen minutes, Microsoft basically only showed us things that it had already announced in 2011.
In some way, the keynote felt like a huge middle finger to CES. It's almost as if Microsoft, which had already said that CES didn't quite fit into its rhythm of announcement anymore, wanted to drive this point home by announcing close to nothing. It's hard to imagine that anybody in the audience wasn't already familiar with Windows Phone and the Windows 8 interface, after all.
Only after the first hour was over did Microsoft give us something new: a launch date for Kinect for PC: February 1st. Of course, we already knew it was coming to the PC – we just didn't know the date.
All of the PCs and phones shown in the demos were already announced, the Windows Phone and Windows 8 demos were slick – but probably because the presenters had a chance to hone their skills over the last few months of giving virtually the same presentation over and over again.
And Here's Xbox – And a Tiny Little Bit of News
At one point during the Xbox demo, which included two other minor snippets of news – a partnership with News Corp. and a Sesame Street app – Microsoft decided that it was about time to show that you can play music videos on the Xbox… and to make it clear that this was really a music video, we got to see all of it (or at least the audience in the keynote hall did – the livestream cut out at that point because of copyright concerns).
Maybe the oddest moment of the show, though, was an appearance of the "Tweet Choir." Writing this a good hour after their appearance, I'm still not sure what they were singing about…
Even Ryan Seacrest seemed to be getting impatient towards the end of the show: "Steve, you know something we don't know yet. What's coming next?" Ballmer's answer: "Windows 8." You can't make this stuff up…