CES 2010: Microsoft Debuts a Slate of Its Own

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer kicked off the 2010 edition of the Consumer Electronics Show here Wednesday night by looking back at some of the software giant’s biggest successes in 2009 and unveiling an HP-manufactured “slate PC” that will be available “later this year.”

Long before Ballmer took the stage, the the word was out, but that didn’t stop the overfilled audience at the Hilton Center from applauding and snapping their pictures as the, well, tablet-sized device was displayed running Kindle software for the PC.

While the tech world anxiously awaits Apple’s own iSlate announcement next week, Ballmer and company provided scant specs on the nifty looking device, saying only that it would be available later this year and HP, Archos and another vendor will manufacture them.

“The last three decades have brought absolutely stunning changes,” he said. “Today we take for granted stuff that was science fiction in the 1980s. We use touchscreen devices, we tweet, podcast, text and we Bing. And we Bing. And we Bing.”

Ballmer reviewed the high points of the past year, making it clear that while 2009 was “a year of unprecedented economic turbulence,” Microsoft “stayed focused and worked hard” to bring new technologies to the marketplace.

The debut of Windows 7 and the launch of its Bing search engine were cited as two of the companies’ most obvious and impressive achievements.

Ballmer said Windows 7 was responsible for a 50 percent uptick in new PC sales this holiday season compared to last, an assertion supported late last month by market research ChangeWave, which found that 73 of IT buyers surveyed said their companies will be buying new machines in the first quarter of this year.

The results from the efforts of 3,000 Microsoft engineers and more than 8 million consumer beta testers “speak for themselves,” Ballmer said, adding that Gartner is now expecting a 3 percent increase in total PC sales in 2009, an impressive turnabout from its previous prediction of a 2 percent decline.

Ballmer also showed off the Acer Aspire Revo and Dell Inspiron Zino HD, a pair of high-end PCs for the living room as Microsoft continues to roll out software and devices designed to bring entertainment and content to people in any form they choose.

Robbie Bach, Microsoft’s president entertainment and devices, shared the stage with Ballmer for a stretch, announcing a slew of new games for the Xbox will be released this year including Halo Reach, the fourth installment of the wildly popular franchise.

Ballmer said the company has sold more than 39 million Xbox 360 consoles and that more than one person per second signs up for the multiplayer Xbox Live network.

Also, Ballmer told attendees that Bing will become the default search engine and MSN the default home page for all HP PCs.

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