Matt Farrington-Smith
12/01/2012 11:37 | By Matt Farrington-Smith, editor, MSN Tech & Gadgets

A history of Microsoft at CES

Microsoft's last hurrah: CES 2001-2011. We take a retrospective look back at Microsoft's appearances at the annual Computer Entertainment Show.



Microsoft have been regular visitors to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES for short) in Las Vegas for nearly 20 years. And as the dust settles around 2012's extravaganza, Microsoft leave the stage for the last time.

CES 2012 marked the last keynote for the tech giant, we look back at key moments from the show's past decade; a busy time that saw former CEO Bill Gates give up his mantle and the launch of many a game-changing product.

Bill Gates and The Rock pictured at CES 2001. Image AP Photo, Laura Rauch

Bill Gates and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson talk about Microsoft's Xbox.


2001 - Microsoft unveils the Xbox

"There's a revolution that's about to take place in game consoles," Bill Gates promised before uncovering an Xbox unit to a waiting crowd.

Gates unveiled the highly anticipated Xbox, Microsoft's first video game console, in his CES 2001 keynote speech. The sleek black box of tricks included a 733MHz processor, built-in 8GB hard drive, ethernet network port and a DVD drive.

Predicting the future. A slide from Bill's keynote speech revealed the groundwork for what he called "The Digital Lifestyle"; smart, connected devices, broadband internet, digital media and no new wires. Back in 2001 such notions were dismissed as pure flights of fancy, suffice to say we now know different.

Bill Gates pictured with Steve Guggenheimer. Image Microsoft

Bill Gates and Steve Guggenheimer
with a Mira wireless smart monitor.

2002 - Freestyle, Mira and Ultimate TV

In 2002 Microsoft showcased a myriad of Microsoft advances including "Freestyle," "Mira" and Ultimate TV. There was very much a focus on a "more connected home".

Back then Microsoft had something called the Windows eHome Division, "Freestyle" allowed users to more easily control, share and access their music, videos and photos, search for TV shows, and pause and record live television using their Windows XP PC from anywhere in the room.

"Mira" promised consumers the power of the PC with access to their familiar applications and personal data, including web browsing, composing and reading email, listening to music and viewing and editing digital images from any location in the home.

A trial version of the Ultimate TV service was also shown, offering digital video-recording enhancements.


Bill Gates sports a new Fossil watch. Image Microsoft

Bill Gates models a SPOT Fossil watch.




2003 - "Smart" Living

2003's keynote highlighted smart, connected devices and services designed to help people keep in touch and be entertained. To that end Bill waxed lyrical about Microsoft Windows XP, the MSN network of internet services and the Xbox.

Bill also unveiled the first line of personal accessories based on Microsoft's Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT).

The SPOT range consisted of everyday devices that would be brought to life through easy-to-use software. Watches by Fossil, Suunto and Citizen were shown, these provided the wearer access to personal messages and appointments, plus the ability to receive up-to-date news, traffic, weather and sports information.


Bill Gates pictured with Jay Leno. Image Microsoft

Bill Gates pictured with Jay Leno.


2004 - Seamless computing

For the 2004 CES keynote Bill Gates was joined by TV personality Jay Leno.

Bill expanded on Microsoft's vision for "seamless computing" by demonstrating software breakthroughs that delivered unified digital experiences, making the technology in consumers' lives work as a connected whole.

He also introduced a number of products and services that would bring the power of software to the world of consumer electronics. These included new Microsoft Windows Media Center Extender Technologies and Portable Media Centers, which made the digital entertainment experiences of Media Center PCs available throughout the home and on the go.

A new MSN that offered premium and enhanced MSN services was also introduced for broadband internet users. This would be called MSN Premium.


Bill Gates demonstrates Windows Media Center. Image Microsoft

Bill Gates demonstrates Windows Media Center.


2005 - Windows Media Center

In-keeping with the run of special guest-stars, Microsoft's 2005 CES keynote saw Conan O'Brien take to the stage for a chat with Bill Gates. The event offered a first look at the next iteration of Windows - Windows Media Center.

Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 was billed as the best version of Windows for any room in the home. It was really just an expanded version of the hugely popular Windows XP, but added digital video recorder and media player capabilities. It breathed new life into Windows by allowing the user to watch and pause live TV with their PC.

Microsoft also took this opportunity to introduce a range of universal home theatre remote controls designed to interact with Media Center.

Speculation was rife that Microsoft would preview the "Xbox 2" console at CES 2005, but this unveiling instead materialised later that same year at the E3 gaming expo.

Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer duke it out. Image Microsoft

Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer duke it out.


2006 - Digital homes of the future

Xbox 360 was launched in the September of 2005 to unsurprisingly criticial acclaim. The 2006 keynote is packed full of impressive stats that highlights the console's success - Microsoft corporate VP Peter Moore: "first 90 days we will have launched Xbox 360 in nearly 30 countries, and Xbox 360 is on track to ship between 4.5 and 5.5 million consoles by the end of June." And considering 2006 was still early days for online console gaming, Moore revealed that 50% of Xbox 360 consoles were connected to Xbox Live.

To demonstrate the Xbox 360's multiplayer prowess, Bill Gates and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer play the Xbox 360 Fight Night, Round 3 video game with boxing commentator Al Bernstein.

It was also revealed that Microsoft were producing an external disc drive capable of reading Toshiba's HD-DVD discs.

Proceedings are rounded off with Bill presenting his vision of the future by previewing the next version of the Windows operating system - Vista.

Bill Gates at CES 2007. Image AP Photo, Damian Dovarganes

Bill Gates at CES 2007.


2007 - Windows Vista

Bill's eleventh keynote may have placed emphasis on "Connected Experiences" but it was Vista that dominated headlines. You couldn't move for Microsoft's next operating system at CES 2007, it was everywhere. Vista showed up on every major desktop, laptop and peripheral you laid eyes on.

Windows Vista incorporated many changes and new features, most notable of all was the updated graphical user interface and visual style (Aero).

A wealth of other keynote highlights included Office 2007, Xbox 360, Zune media player, Windows Live Search and the latest version of Ford Sync powered by Microsoft.

Slash performs with Bill Gates at CES 2008. Image AP Photo, Paul Sakuma

Slash performing with Bill Gates at CES 2008.


2008 - Bill Gates announces retirement

2008 was the year Bill Gates formally announced his retirement from his day-to-day duties at Microsoft. Bill delivered the grandiose announcement live from the CES stage and presented a hilarious spoof video dubbed "Bill Gates' last day at Microsoft". The video sends-up his last days before retirement, it featured cameos by Steve Ballmer, Matthew McConaughey, Jay-Z, Bono, Steven Spielberg, George Clooney, Jon Stewart, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama, and Al Gore. That's quite an impressive list of stars...

Bill was also joined for an impromptu Guitar Hero session with none other than Slash. Although (thankfully) the audience was saved the sound of Bill's shredding.

Steve Ballmer delivers his first keynote at CES 2009. Image Microsoft

Steve Ballmer delivers his first keynote at CES 2009.


2009 - Windows 7

Microsoft's CES 2009 keynote kicked off the Steve Ballmer years. Ballmer began in fine style; offering the crowd a tantalising first glimpse of Windows 7 by announcing the availability of the Windows 7 Beta.

Additionally, a host of new and enhanced Windows Live services were revealed. These included Windows Live Messenger, along with Windows Live Mail and Windows Live Photo Gallery. The new products were designed to work seamlessly with more than 50 popular internet services, e.g. Facebook. For the first time Facebook users would be able to share content they post on Facebook, including photos, directly into Windows Live.


Steve Ballmer shows off a prototype slate. Image Microsoft

Steve Ballmer shows off a prototype slate.


2010 - Project Natal

2010 was all about introducing entertainment across new screens, scenes and interfaces. Robbie Bach - President Microsoft Entertainment & Devices Division, gave a behind-the-scenes look at the work behind "Project Natal". Natal was a controller-free gaming experience that tracks movement of the body and facial expressions, and even responds to your voice. This later became known as Kinect.

Steve Ballmer showed off an HP slate during the keynote address (a prototype of Microsoft's long-mooted tablet).

We were also treated to some impressive stats: Windows 7 was the fastest selling operating system in history. PC sales jumped nearly 50% the week Windows 7 launched.

Steve Ballmer at CES 2011. Image Microsoft

Steve Ballmer at CES 2011.


2011 - An exciting time for Microsoft
Microsoft provided updates on Kinect for Xbox 360 and Windows Phone, and also previewed several new Windows PC devices coming to market.

Steve Ballmer introduced Avatar Kinect and appeared on screen as his Xbox avatar. Avatar Kinect uses Kinect's facial recognition technology to allow a person not only control their avatar's movements but also to project their expressions onto their avatar. E.g. when they smile, frown, nod and speak, the avatar will do the same.

In preparation for Windows 8 - Windows was demonstrated running on an ARM processor.

Ballmer also announced that Microsoft will release a series of Windows Phone 7 updates over the next few months, including adding the copy-and-paste feature and improving the phone's performance when loading or switching between applications.


2012 - Looking forward
Catch all of Microsoft's announcements from CES 2012 on MSN UK.


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