Microsoft fails to inspire at CES

It's been a funny CES for Microsoft. So often the company represents the big push in computing at the show, but with Windows Vista failing to inspire the tech community - and being a year old - the impetus has been left to Intel's announcement of Penryn's consumer tilt, which we knew about beforehand anyway.

Inspiration was sadly lacking during Bill Gates' keynote. Jobs would have gone out with a bang, but Gates was happy to let things pass without note in a year where Microsoft hasn't really got anything to say.

In a sense, CES suffers as a show when Microsoft cannot produce. It will already be under pressure to replicate the buzz around the pre-show keynote next year when Gates will no longer be available to speak on behalf of Microsoft.

This year's malaise won't have helped the CEA as it battles for the airwaves. It was bad enough last year when Macworld happened at the same time and the iPhone overshadowed everything at CES.

So Microsoft is only trying to push Vista this show. The corporation's intention around Vista is clear - it is relying on promoting the whole 'experience' around the OS - but Vista has had one major problem since launch. How do you promote something that doesn't have any big bang feature enhancements, but lots of smaller ones?

The issue was acknowledged by Microsoft when we put it to Aaron D Coldiron, senior marketing manager for Windows this morning.

"You know that's probably one of the hardest parts," answered Coldiron. "You don't want to overwhelm people by listing 6,000 things on the box," he said, failing to tell us what Microsoft was actually going to do about it.

Overall experience

Coldiron took me round the Windows Vista Experience Tent outside the Las Vegas Convention Center. It's where Microsoft is demoing the hardware created for Windows including a new raft of machines from the likes of Dell, HP and others.

Microsoft has worked with the manufacturers to "improve the overall experience" of using Windows machines such as the new Dell XPS One and Sony's Vaio all-in-ones.

"We have an industrial design team and they created a toolkit," explains Coldiron. "We work together with the PC manufacturers with their designers. We try to show them what colours we see working best, that kind of thing."

But aside from Vista, what did Microsoft have to show? Its stand promoted Windows Live and the new Zunes heavily. But aside from the Zune the only real tech we could garner any enthusiasm for was IPTV over Xbox Live - and that was announced last year. We'll be seeing a lot more of that courtesy of BT. As for Microsoft, let's hope that it can provide some inspiration next year.


Dan (Twitter, Google+) is TechRadar's Former Deputy Editor and is now in charge at our sister site Covering all things computing, internet and mobile he's a seasoned regular at major tech shows such as CES, IFA and Mobile World Congress. Dan has also been a tech expert for many outlets including BBC Radio 4, 5Live and the World Service, The Sun and ITV News.