The CES Keynote yawn: is it Ballmer or is it Microsoft?

The early returns are filtering in, and our personal first impressions, along with others from around the web, were, shall we say, underwhelming.  Nick Eaton at the Seattle PI, for one, was left wanting:

What we don’t know is why Microsoft is still opening CES. It announced some updates. It announced some projects. It talked about existing products. Yes, Kinect is going gangbusters — but Microsoft did not put on a consumer-electronics show tonight.

and Larry Dignan at ZDNet echoes the sentiment:

I think it’s time for the Consumer Electronics Association to cut Microsoft loose and bring in a real innovator to deliver the opening keynote speech at CES.

Last night’s on-stage presentation by CEO Steve Ballmer and crew was, quite frankly, embarrassing. The company didn’t have any real news to share, aside from some talking avatars, Kinect technology in a Netflix app and an update to Microsoft Surface. And they insulted the intelligence of those in attendance by trying to mask a keynote speech with highlights from the past year.

ballmer-kinectTo recap, Microsoft began strong by showing off the latest from Xbox, including some nice Kinect sales numbers, Avatar Kinect, and Kinect-driven Netflix, but the anticipation of either new functionality for the Xbox to provide Google/Apple TV type all-in-one connected TV experiences, or as had been rumored, a new set top box powered by Microsoft to do the same thing, failed to materialize.

(photo credit Damien Koh, CNET Asia)

And indeed there’s quite a little tizzy going on right now on the blogs and on Twitter about the meaning of Microsoft’s announced “8 million Kinects sold” figure.  Dina Bass clarified from Microsoft that those numbers were “sold in” to the retail channel, not “sold through” to consumers.  Here’s her Twitter recap:

Then Steve Ballmer rolled out the same (up until now empty) promises of copy/paste coming to Windows Phone (just do it already, where was the “download it now!” announce?), pouted about how people didn’t realize how cool WP7 is, and trotted out some marketing type to read off of PowerPoint slides on how great all the (already announced, old news) features of Windows Phone were.  Hint: instead of 7 old features, give us 1 or 2 new ones, mmmkay?

Last came the vaporware part of the show, where (complete with hacked up computer wiring, ooooh!) Microsoft showed off Windows v.Someday running on ARM processors.  And it can print!  Great, when it finally comes out we’ll be able to read all about it on our Android tablets.

The Ballmer show is definitely getting old.  In every keynote it’s the same formula, the same forced enthusiasm, the same droning tones that make even the occasional exciting announcement sound boring.  And as usual, this keynote was all about Microsoft Promise, and Microsoft ReHash, but no Microsoft Deliver.  Although a new website popped up with more copy/paste promises, at least it is called “January-Update.aspx”, giving us a little hope for something concrete coming soon from Redmond, which must be the smoke and mirrors capital of the world.