Guest Post: Microsoft Makes Big Promises at CES, But Will They Deliver?

By Jenn Prentice

Whether you love them or hate them, Microsoft was certainly the belle of the tech ball that was the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week.  The company, (which announced a few weeks prior to the tradeshow that after this year it would be discontinuing its involved in CES) pulled out all the stops for their last keynote address, even bringing TV personality Ryan Seacrest (I wonder how much they paid him for that) to the stage to host a Q&A session with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

For his part, Ballmer was his usual exuberant self. And if you watched or read anything about the keynote address and some of the products Microsoft unveiled (including the much anticipated Windows 8), it’s easy to see why.  While so many of the products revealed at CES have an as yet undetermined launch date (if they will launch in the US at all), all the products Microsoft demoed will launch in the United States later this year.

It’s my understanding that many of the people who read this site are Apple enthusiasts, and after using an iPad 2 to do most of my reporting from CES last week, it’s easy to see why you all love your Macs.  That being said, with Windows 8 and 2012’s rebirth of the Windows Phone, Microsoft might give all you Apple people cause to give them a second look.  Here’s three reasons why:

1. Emphasis on design

With Windows 8, Microsoft seems to be going after consumers who value aesthetics as well as sheer computing power.  The ubiquitous tiled design and bold colors that I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of gives Windows 8 devices (both PCs and mobile phones) an eye-catching, sleek look and feel.  In fact, I think the New York Times described Windows Phones (all of which will run Windows 8 either before or directly after the OS is released) as “gorgeous, classy, satisfying and coherent.”  Both Nokia and HTC debuted Windows Phones at CES.  The Nokia Lumia N900 and the HTC Titan II are 4G LTE phones that should be available in the US by the end of Q2.  Unfortunately, every Windows 8 mobile device unveiled at CES will run on the AT&T network–at least at first.  Though, I did corner Nokia CEO Steven Elop in an elevator and asked him if there was any hope of the Lumia phones coming to Verizon this year and he told me to “keep my ears open.”

2. Connected, consistent experience

As someone who has an Android phone, Windows 7 PC and iPad 2, I find using disparate devices that don’t sync information with one another frustrating.  Sure, you can upload files to Dropbox or access Gmail from your browser rather than an application, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a smartphone, PC and tablet that talked to one another and shared information and files without manual labor? Windows 8 will do just that.  All Windows 8 devices will automatically sync with one another, putting the information you need on your device and in your hands immediately.

3. Socially savvy

Microsoft has named the tiles I referred to earlier their Metro-Style interface.  Each of those tiles represents an application or website that you load onto one of your devices, and each tile can be grouped into topical hubs.  This is particularly important when it comes to social networking. Windows 8 lets you group your social networks into one hub and will automatically update each app (eg- Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) so that notifications are pushed your way as soon as you log on.  In addition, Windows Phones take each of your contacts and sync their names with all of the social media sites you are connected with them on.  So, for example, if I were to pull up “Brenda Bethman” on my phone, I would not only see her phone number, but also her Twitter, Facebook and Google + information and a recap of all the conversations the two of us have had on each of those social networks.

Indeed, if Steve Ballmer’s CES keynote was any indication, Microsoft seems to be on the right track with Windows 8 and their new Windows Phone devices.  That being said, I realize that Microsoft has a history of over-promising and under-delivering.  In my opinion, if Windows 8 does not live up to the hype, it could be the final nail in the company’s coffin.  Let’s hope 2012 is the year Microsoft truly resolves to do things better.

So what do you think? Are the Windows 8 previews enough to intrigue you? Do you plan to purchase a Windows 8 device or make an upgrade to your current Windows OS? Do you even use Microsoft products at all?

Editor’s note: This is labeled a “guest” post because while Jenn was formerly one of our regular bloggers, her schedule no longer permits her to be a regular contributor. We were able to convince her to do a guest post from CES, however, and are hopeful that we will be able to convince her to write more in the future.

Guest Post: Microsoft Makes Big Promises at CES, But Will They Deliver?