Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?

Live-blogging Steve Ballmer

The consumer electronics extravaganza formally kicks off with a keynote address by Microsoft's CEO. We'll keep you up-to-the-minute.

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
8 min read

CES 2010 formally kicks off Wednesday night with a keynote address by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer that starts at 6:30 p.m. PT.

Ballmer is expected to play up the high points of Windows 7 and to talk about other topics near and dear to Microsoft, ranging from its game technology to touch-screen interfaces.

I'll be bringing you details from the keynote speech and offering commentary on what Ballmer and Microsoft are up to as the presentation commences.

Lights go down at Hilton Center--and stay down. James Martin/CNET

6 p.m.: Hilton Center is filled up. On stage, naturally, are a whole mess of PCs ranging from the teeny to the large. Still a bit early--half an hour until Ballmer...

6:30 p.m.: Lights just went dark here.

6:35 p.m.: Lights down, music still playing. No one on stage, though. " We are having a small power problem. Please remain in your seats." (And here I thought they were just being green.)

6:37 p.m.: We're not totally without power, but lights are intermittent and stage is totally dark. Bad music must be running on generator.

6:40 p.m.: Power back on stage. Keynote now set to start in 5 minutes, we're told. Well, it wouldn't be a Microsoft keynote without glitches, as a colleague pointed out.

6:42 p.m.: Sprint's network appears to be down inside the keynote hall, frustrating many a would-be liveblogger. We're on to plan B: my T-Mobile BlackBerry. So don't expect too many long quotes, but I can snark pretty fast.

6:50 p.m.: Keynote hasn't started, but on-stage video now working. Stage crew appears to be checking each of the assembled PCs that Ballmer to demo. If this were Apple, at least two dozen people would be unemployed. I wonder how Ballmer's reacting backstage.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer takes the stage at the Hilton Center to formally open CES 2010. James Martin/CNET

6:55 p.m: Lights went down, this time on purpose though. Keynote starting--we hope. Still no Ballmer though. A CES video ad is running.

6:57 p.m: And here he is... CEO... of the Consumer Electronics Association, Gary Shapiro. Sigh.

7 p.m: Ballmer takes the stage. He is wearing a red sweater and slacks, in case you were wondering. "2009 really was a year of unprecedented economic turbulence," Ballmer said, but added that the tech industry kept going. He rolls video with Seth Meyers from "Saturday Night Live."

7:03 p.m: Meyers shows the impact of tech, noting grandparents can now nag him via Webcam. "Before Xbox Live, I thought I was better than 11-year-olds at video games." Now he knows better. "Thanks technology," he quips.

Watch this: Highlights from the Microsoft keynote

7:05 p.m: Ballmer is back and talking about how tech is giving everyone the experiences they want wherever they are. He also talks about progress in new user interfaces, like touch. "The things we take for granted now would have sounded like science fiction in the early 1980s," Ballmer says.

7:08 p.m: Ballmer notes that we text, we tweet, we have GPS and of course, "We bing, We bing, bing, bing bing"--at least at his house, he says.

7:08 p.m: Ballmer is recapping 2009 and touting stat that more than 39 million Xbox 360s have been sold, as well as referencing Natal. Bing has added 11 million new users and grown Microsoft's share of search market.

7:10 p.m: Meanwhile, the Sprint network appears to be back up. Switching from guns to rockets. Back in a second.

7:12 p.m: OK. Back at it. Ballmer mentions the expanded deal Microsoft has with HP to make Bing the default search engine and MSN the default homepage on new PCs. I'm told the term of the deal has also been expanded from 12 months to 3 years and the new deal covers both business and consumer PCs, as opposed to just consumer ones.

7:15 p.m: He's moved on to cars, talking about Microsoft's work with Ford, Kia and Fiat. And he notes good reviews for Zune HD (but doesn't cite sales figures). Talk turns to mobile. He notes launch of Windows Mobile 6.5 last year and as expected, shows the HTC HD2, which is coming to the U.S. via T-Mobile. "But of course the biggest hit for us...and our industry partners...was Windows 7," Ballmer said.

A helper takes the stage to help Ballmer with his presentation. James Martin/CNET

7:17 p.m: Ballmer notes that it took 3,000 Microsoft engineers and 8 million beta testers to make Windows 7 what it is. "The results speak for themselves," he said, noting that NPD data shows that the holiday 2009 shopping season saw a 50 percent increase in Windows PC unit sales. Ballmer said that Gartner now expects PC sales for 2009 will be up 3 percent as opposed to its earlier forecast of a 2 percent dip. For 2010, Gartner forecasts a 12 percent jump, Ballmer said.

7:20 p.m: He talks to the diversity of Windows machines, noting how many new PCs are out, as well as the fact there are more than 4 million Windows applications. "Rather than sit here and talk talk talk," Ballmer said, he wants to show some of the PCs that are available with Windows 7.

7:24 p.m: Ballmer and a helper start with all-in-ones: A300 from Lenovo and Vaio L as well as a Medion PC. "Being in Vegas, you've got to look sexy," the helper says. "I don't know," Ballmer said, "but go ahead." Well, the PCs need to look sexy apparently. Shows an ultra-thin Dell Adamo. "But, being thin isn't everything," the helper says. I think he's talking PCs still. He shows some of the big gaming rigs, including the HP Envy 15 and a Toshiba machine that will run DirectX11 games. Ballmer is showing a 3D gaming notebook from Asus running a Batman game.

7:28 p.m: On to living room PCs, including Acer Aspire Revo and Dell inspiron Zino HD, a Mac Mini-like PC. They were going to show a PC built into a big TV, but apparently the power outage blew that PC's screen.

The Blio reader, which lets you do things like have a textbook with video embedded or an e-book that also includes a human-narrated audiobook automatically synchronized to the text. James Martin/CNET

7:30 p.m: Now demoing Blio reader, software from Ray Kurzweil that uses Microsoft's Windows Presentation Foundation to turn PC-s into an interactive e-reader. (I'll have more on this tomorrow as well as a video I did with Kurzweil.) Blio lets you do things like have a textbook with video embedded or an e-book that also includes a human-narrated audiobook automatically synchronized to the text.

7:30 p.m: The helper, named Ryan, is demonstrating Office 2010 working with Windows Live, along with Ballmer. They are both working on a PowerPoint document, and both are making changes to the same document. When they save their changes, the updates are merged. Ballmer works in a "developers, developers, developers" joke, but no Monkey Boy dance.

7:34 p.m: Without much transition, Ryan is talking Bing Maps. And, now he's talking TV on the PC. And, another demo glitch. One of the PCs freezes as Ryan attempts to navigate multiple open Windows. In fairness, it could be a remnant of the power outage, which, at least I don't think can be blamed on Microsoft.

7:40 p.m: Ballmer shifts talk to Mediaroom, Microsoft's set-top box software that powers IPTV services such as AT&T U-verse. Mediaroom now has 4 million households using the service. And, starting later this year, AT&T customers will be able to use their Xbox 360s as a U-verse set-top box. New version, Mediaroom 2.0 will allow users to also use a PC to get their premium TV content.

Steve Ballmer shows off a slate PC. James Martin/CNET

7:41 p.m: Just a reminder folks, this is a live blog. Thanks to everyone sending in typos. We're working to fix (but also trying to make sure you don't miss any of the action). And yes, we know it's not Ballmer, not Jobs. We fixed a while ago, but taking a while for some to see the change.

7:43 p.m: Ballmer now showing three slate tablets, including an HP device, one from Archos and another. Ballmer said they are the perfect devices for on-the-go entertainment, including reading and video. He picks up the HP device, which he says is a prototype of a device coming later this year. Shows a video from HP.

Steve Ballmer shows off a trio of new slate PCs. James Martin/CNET

7:45 p.m: In the demo, Ballmer is running Kindle software for the PC--basically the current Kindle for PC experience. Highlighting what a PC can do, though, he fires up a video from the device, again featuring Seth Meyers. Meyers is pretending to be his crica 1983 self playing Frogger for the first time with its realistic "blobs."

7:47 p.m: Now he's using a giant old cell phone with the other person unable to hear a word he is saying. "The internet was the real game changer," he says, showing his college self trying to download pictures using a dial-up modem.

7:50 p.m: Entertainment unit President Robbie Bach takes over for Ballmer. Bach is talking Xbox. Expect him to rattle off a whole bunch of titles that are coming for Xbox 360, mention Natal is coming for the holidays, and tout a new Game Room that lets Xbox Live users create their own arcade.

7:52 p.m: Yep. here we go. Mass Effect 2 coming later this month. Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Conviction after that, along with add-on packs for Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, coming first to the Xbox 360. He just referred to 2010 as 2020, but we'll let that pass.

Entertainment unit President Robbie Bach announces a whole bunch of titles that are coming for Xbox 360. James Martin/CNET

7:54 p.m: He's talking about Alan Wake, a new type of mystery game genre. (I'm down to very little battery, switching back from rockets to guns--my BlackBerry. Luckily, most of the news has leaked out.

7:55 p.m: Now showing trailer for Halo Reach, the next game in that franchise, which takes place before the trilogy began. That drew some modest applause. It's coming this fall. Halo 3DST owners will get to play a multiplayer beta on Xbox Live, Bach said.

7:58 p.m: Bach recaps the addition of Facebook, Twitter, Last.fm, and the Zune video store to Xbox 360 and demos the instant-on HD rentals via Zune by renting the latest Harry Potter and playing it.

8 p.m: He moves on to the Xbox Live Game Room, which is coming to PC and Xbox 360 this spring and let's you play classic arcade games with friends. The cool part isn't just the games, but the virtual arcade and the multiplayer experience where you have your friends' avatar in your game room. You can buy a game once and play on either Xbox or a Windows PC.

8:03 p.m: And, with everyone's batteries and attention spans waning, talk turns to Natal. "With Project Natal we are removing the last barrier to gaming; the controller," Bach said. He roles video of the Natal team talking about the development of the add-on, which is coming this holiday season.

8:07 p.m: Still no word on price. I tried to get Bach to give me a ballpark estimate, but no dice. "2010 is going to be the biggest year in Xbox history," he said.

8:10 p.m: Bach exits. Keynote ends.

8:15 p.m: On my way out I caught up with HP PC unit boss Todd Bradley and got two more details on the HP tablet that was shown. It's expected mid-year and has an 8.9-inch screen.

Also, be sure to check out these stories related to Ballmer's keynote:
• Project Natal gets a date, but not a price tag
• Microsoft's Bach on Courier, Natal, tablets, and phones