In tonight's CES Keynote, Robbie Bach - head of Microsoft's entertainment division - noted that Zune 'had a great year' in 2008. He cited the critical acclaim that Zune has received for MixView, and the second generation players.
Zune Social members have climbed to 2 million in 2008, and he touted Zune Pass, with its ten download-to-keep monthly downloads, as part of Zune's success in 2008. Nice to hear this public emphasis on Zune Pass, which is an almost-too-good-to-be-true subscription model and one that I love hearing that Microsoft remains committed to.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was the main keynote speaker, of course. Here's a recap of that keynote. (For a fuller perspective, I recommend the Gizmodo live-blog of the event.)
The big news from Ballmer was the release in beta - today - of Windows 7. Participants in Microsoft's MSDN network can download it today, and the general public can download it by this Friday. This is the new version of Windows that will replace Vista. And, from our preview tonight, it looks wildly compelling. I can't wait to get back home and download the beta.
Ballmer spoke about the evolution of Windows, and computing in general, from one screen - the PC - to the convergence of the three screens of PC, phone, and TV. He spoke about the evolution of UIs, and the trend to connected computing - the socially interactive computing and cloud computing models that are redefining how people use technology. With Windows 7, Microsoft is further extending the Windows platform across those three screens, and into the cloud where data and services are located in and are delivered from the web.
This was followed by a compelling demo of Windows 7 by a Microsoft rep, as well as a demo of Window Mobile and Windows Live. Windows Live Essentials are made up of Windows Live Messenger, Windows Mail, and Windows Photo Gallery. Ballmer announced a partnership with facebook in which Facebook data, such as status updates, are integrated with Windows Live. Also, Microsoft has reached agreement with Dell to pre-install Windows Live on Dell PCs.
Robbie also gave an impressive rundown of Xbox Live statistics - including an impressive 10 billion hours of Xbox Live gameplay in 2008. He described the Xbox community games channel, and the new Kodu Game Creator - which allows kids to program games through the Xbox controller. He brought out Sparrow, a girl who looked to be about eleven years old. She impressively modified a game that she had developed and then played it against Robbie. (She won.)
Pretty fun keynote, and even though no Zune announcements in it, it left me impressed with Microsoft and its prospects for 2009.