Wednesday, January 7, 2009

CES Keynote with Steve Ballmer

Everyone (disclaimer, most my industry friends are hard core Linux zealots) told me that this years keynote address from Steve Ballmer would be a boring non-event as Microsoft wouldn't have anything new and interesting in the pipeline to talk about. That statement couldn't have been further from the truth.

Don't get me wrong, there was a lot of baseless marketing hype, a good example was their demo of a semantic web application. They used in specific the example of a medical atlas which was built as a semantic mashup. What Steve and his staff failed to mention is that the hard part of this application is the countless hours the domain experts in academia and the biomedical industry are putting into defining these semantic ontologies and vocabularies and thus making these publicly accessible resources a reality, not Microsofts API for consuming this data, there is very little value in what they have done in this space and it was a shame they showed it off so much without giving proper credits to the people that are truly making this technology a reality.

And there were also a number of been there done that demos which made my eyes roll, like the Microsoft Surface and multi-touch demos. I think after two years, we get the idea.

But there were a couple of announcements that will keep me up tonight (It's actually the jet lag and all these neon lights which I can't block out). These weren't necessarily technical in the pure sense but were really interesting business and product line developments. I'll only write about one in specific tonight.

It was Ballmers announcement that the Microsoft subsidiary Tellme has partnered with Ford in having it's voice driven directory services integrated into Ford cars. Why is this important? because Tellme is a hosted service. This means that Microsoft has moved beyond it's in-car voice driven Sync technology which follows Microsofts traditional business model to include a hosted service over what surely has to be a built in mobile link in every car. So in effect, Microsoft has become an MVNO, the largest MVNO network in North America and by all means as far as coverage goes the largest wireless carrier in North America. Sure, it's limited to one application but whats to stop them from offering a full mobile PBX that works on every major American network? They've taken the first step and taken the precedence with the carriers. I'd like to hear your comments on this.

Something else to mention, I was quite disappointed that Ballmer did not jump around like a jonesing crackhead.

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