But just as Microsoft seems to be getting its act together, it is pulling out of the U.S.’s largest technology show.
Steve Ballmer didn’t dance around like a monkey. Bill Gates didn’t make a cameo, and there was only one of the goofy, funny videos that Microsoft is known for.
Overall it was a letdown, despite software that looks like it might really give Apple a run for its money.
Instead of going out with a bang, CEO Steve Ballmer exuded an air of “let’s get this over with.” There was little of his trademark bluster and energy. He spent the majority of the show sitting at the back of the stage with MC Ryan Seacrest while a parade of Microsoft executives took over presentation duties. (It was actually a relief; he’s too bombastic for a 75-minute presentation).
They showed off Microsoft’s new software for smartphones, tablets, PCs and XBox. Unlike everyone else here at CES, Microsoft is actually trying hard NOT to copy Apple.
In a sea of look-alike tablets and smartphones, Microsoft’s Metro interface in Windows 8 is actually quite original. It’s intriguing, coherent, and unusual for Microsoft — looks intuitive and easy to use.
The Metro design seems to work well across a wide range of devices: smartphones, tablets, PCs and Microsoft’s XBox game console.
High points were demos of a tablet running Windows 8 and an XBox being controlled by voice. A Microsoft executive was able to search for a movie, start and pause it with just a few straightforward voice commands. It gave a peek of how a Siri-controlled Apple TV might work. And it actually worked quite well.
It should have been a high note, and nearly was. Pity, but I guess Microsoft’s not going anywhere. It’s just not doing big trade shows anymore. But then again, neither is Apple.