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Steve Ballmer to headline CES 2011

Microsoft boss to deliver Las Vegas keynote

Rumors about Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer speaking at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference turned out to be fiction,  but Ballmer will deliver a keynote address at the mammoth CES consumer electronics show in January.

The Consumer Electronics Association announced Thursday that Ballmer will give the preshow keynote address on Jan. 5 in Las Vegas, just as he did earlier this year. At the 2010 CES, Ballmer showed off a few Windows 7 slate PCs, including one made by HP.

HP ultimately dropped Windows 7 from its Slate tablet, however, so Ballmer will hope to make a product announcement with a little more staying power at next year's CES. In past years, Microsoft has also used the CES stage to announce the Xbox and Windows Vista.

Apple WWDC vs. Microsoft TechEd

Rumors recently floated that Ballmer would speak at Apple's WWDC in June, but the rumors were shot down by Microsoft, which said, in a tweet: "Steve Ballmer not speaking at Apple Dev Conf. Nor appearing on Dancing with the Stars. Nor riding in the Belmont. Just FYI."

But appearing at CES again will give Ballmer access to the same consumer audience so thoroughly dominated by Apple with its lineup of iPads, iPhones and iPods.

Microsoft has plenty going on in the consumer electronics world, with the new Kinect for Xbox 360, designed to rival the Nintendo Wii's motion control gaming; and the upcoming Windows Phone 7.  

But Microsoft's recent consumer failures have not been limited to the HP slate. Microsoft canceled its "Courier" tablet project, replaced the management of its mobile phone and consumer devices division in May, and then this month ended production of Kin, a phone designed for teenagers hooked on social media.  

Despite Microsoft's shaky year in consumer technology, CES organizers called Ballmer the "perfect" choice to headline one of the world's biggest consumer devices shows.

"As leader of one of the world's most innovative technology companies, a keynote address from Steve Ballmer is the perfect way to kick off the 2011 International CES," conference chief Gary Shapiro said in an announcement. "Microsoft's entrepreneurial spirit and drive have been major forces behind the success of the company and its impact on the global consumer technology industry. We look forward to hearing Steve's strategic vision for the future of Microsoft and our industry."

The CES announcement noted that Microsoft has previously launched major products at CES, but did not give any hint of what kind of announcement to expect in January.

Follow Jon Brodkin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jbrodkin

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.


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