MICROSOFT CEO Steve Ballmer had very little to shout about at his CES keynote, leaving delegates empty handed.
Earlier in the day, at a hush-hush private shindig, Microsoft announced that the next version of its Windows operating system will support the ARM architecture. During the keynote Ballmer demonstrated an early build of what is being termed Windows 8 running on ARM based chips from Intel, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and Nvidia.
Ballmer heaped hyperbole on Windows Phone 7 (WP7), claiming it is "the best new phone out there" and that WP7 devices are "dramatically different from other phones". He stated that WP7 was a big launch for the Vole and that software updates are scheduled to tip up within a couple of months.
Those WP7 updates will add basic functionality such as copy and paste, along with low level improvements that Ballmer claimed will "significantly improve performance in loading and switching applications". Ballmer also said that Microsoft is in the final stages of readying CDMA versions of WP7 for the US carriers Verizon and Sprint.
While Ballmer was full of sales figures for Windows 7 and Kinect, he avoided mentioning WP7 sales figures or even commenting on how sales were going. In fact, Microsoft even felt the need to promote its US WP7 'buy one get one free' offer in the prelude buildup to Ballmer's keynote.
However Microsoft's decision to support the ARM architecture was the only news of the day. The announcement will see the firm try to compete against Linux and more specifically Google's Android operating system on a host of mobile devices.
The sad fact is, while Ballmer might claim that the beta of Windows 8 runs well on ARM chips, that merely puts it on par with what Linux has been able to do for many years. Nevertheless, Microsoft's decision to embrace the power efficient ARM architecture is a slap in the face for Intel, which is hoping to push its Atom chips further into low power usage scenarios.
Aside from supporting a new architecture, Ballmer's keynote was disappointing in the lack of tangible product announcements. Aside from Xbox Kinect versions of Netflix and Hulu for US users and free avatars for Xbox Live users, there was nothing for punters.
Due to the lack of content in his talk, Ballmer went through his performance without displaying the usual animation and bluster that he is known for. Perhaps that is the real cost - or perhaps benefit - of Microsoft's recent lack of innovation. µ