Microsoft said that last year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) keynote would be its last, but then CEO Steve Ballmer surprised everyone by “crashing” Qualcomm’s opening keynote address last night and plugging Windows 8/Windows RT and Windows Phone 8.
What the heck?
The theme of Qualcomm’s keynote was “born mobile,” so Ballmer’s product inclusions were at least on target, and about how Windows 8 (in its Windows RT variant) and Windows Phone 8 do run on Qualcomm Snapdragon chipsets.
“This year, I’m here to show you some phenomenal new Windows devices on Snapdragon,” Ballmer said during the keynote, which was ostensibly delivered by Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs. “Windows tablets are the only tablets in the world with Office.”
Ballmer also addressed Windows 8’s slow start, which the firm blames internally on PC makers being slow to market with their promised devices. He says that there are now four times as many Windows 8/Windows RT tablets available as there were at the launch in late October, and that each are perfectly suitable for both “work and play.”
Finally, Ballmer added some kind words for Windows Phone 8.
“Each Windows Phone is as unique as the person using it,” he said. “The new Windows Phones are incredible. In November, we reported that sales were four times greater than the same time last year, and during the week of Christmas, we sold five times more phones than the same week last year.”
Ballmer’s appearance during the keynote could be seen as a symbolic changing of the guard, though as I argued yesterday, Microsoft’s decision to end its official CES association is both ill-timed and curiously timed. But Ballmer wasn’t the only surprise during the Qualcomm keynote: Mr. Jacobs also shared the stage with a diverse crowd of guests that included movie director Guillermo del Toro, Sesame Street’s Big Bird, and pop band Maroon 5.
And while Ballmer’s appearance during the keynote is certainly of interest to Microsoft watchers, it certainly wasn’t the highlight of the keynote. Jacobs announced a new Qualcomm chipset, the Snapdragon 800 series processors, which he described as “the most advanced wireless chips ever built,” offering a 70 percent performance boost over the current chips, while utilizing a quad-core design that can run at speeds up to 2.3GHz and will support “LTE+” wireless networking. Snapdragon 800 chips will appear in the second half of 2013, and NVIDIA also announced a similar product, the Tegra 4 chipset, this week at CES.