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Ballmer Can't Stay Away from CES Keynote

The Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas kicked off on Monday with a keynote address by Dr. Paul Jacobs, chairman and CEO of Qualcomm Inc., but Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer also took to the stage for almost 10 minutes in the limelight.

Microsoft, after many years of heading the CES keynote addresses, announced that CES 2012 would be the last time it would open the show, which has featured Bill Gates and Ballmer in the past. Qualcomm's Jacobs used this year's keynote to mark the shift toward consumer mobile technologies. He said that there are more than 6.4 billion mobile connections worldwide. About a million mobile smartphone users are added every day. Jacobs claimed that mobile represents the largest computing platform in world history and that Qualcomm was supplying the processors for more than 500 mobile devices.

After those preliminary comments, Ballmer entered from stage left and began chatting about Windows 8 on Qualcomm Snapdragon chips, highlighting the new Windows RT operating system powering "instant-on, always-connected" tablets designed for work or play. On stage were the Dell XPS ultrabook (Intel Core i-based, running Windows 8) and the Samsung ATIV tablet (Intel Atom-based running Windows 8).

Although it's rumored that Office may come to Android and iOS mobile devices, Ballmer played up the message that Windows 8 machines are "the only tablets in the world with Office." Windows RT-based devices, such as the Microsoft Surface RT, come with Office Home and Student 2013 RT preinstalled.

Microsoft built the touch-centric Windows 8 in part to address the market shift toward mobile computing devices. The company has lost a great deal of its operating system market share as Android and iOS device use has proliferated. A Goldman Sachs report has estimated that the Windows market share plummeted from 93 percent in 2000 to about 20 percent in 2012 due to the mobile competition, according to a CNet article. However, at the CES keynote, Ballmer gave assurances that the Windows 8 platform is still drawing developer interest. He claimed that the number of applications available for Windows 8 devices is now four times the number when Windows 8 launched on Oct. 26. He said that "10,000 applications were added in the last month alone."

Ballmer also claimed a bump up in the sale of Windows Phone devices, without specifying a number. He said that December Windows phone sales were five times what they were in December 2011. On stage were the Nokia Lumia 920 and HTC Windows Phone 8X smartphones. Ballmer also emphasized to the gadget-conscious crowd that Windows Phone mobile devices can be used to control TVs using Microsoft's Xbox SmartGlass technology.

"It's pretty clear that Microsoft and that man, Steve Ballmer, are going mobile," Jacobs said as Ballmer exited stage right. Jacobs then described Qualcomm's new Snapdragon Series 600 and Series 800 processors for mobile computing devices. Qualcomm claims that the Series 800 processor will deliver a 75 percent performance improvement over its predecessor, the Snapdragon S4 Pro, as well as using half the power. The quad-core 2.4 GHz Series 800 chip supports download speeds of 150 Mbps, 30 frames per second video and comes with 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless technology. Series 800 Snapdragon processors are expected to appear in the second half of this year.

The 1.9 GHz Series 600 Snapdragon processor features a 40 percent performance boost over the Snapdragon S4 Pro. Series 600 is expected to appear for use in commercial devices in the second quarter of 2013.

Jacobs concluded the latter part of his talk by describing "an Internet of everything" in which mobile devices will be used in unexpected places, such as personal medical monitoring devices. He said that bandwidth will be crucial, as indicated by present-day smartphone use. He explained that smartphone users currently tap 30 times more data than basic mobile phone users. The use of "small cells" (tiny cell phone towers) will bring the network closer to the users, he added. A new Qualcomm StreamBoost technology for Wi-Fi wireless routers will optimize the bandwidth to fast-track streaming content, he claimed.

Qualcomm is also working with Audi to use 4G LTE wireless technology to create an in-car wireless hotspot. In addition, Qualcomm has developed a Halo wireless electric charging technology to help charge electric cars. A Rolls Royce electric vehicle that was rolled on stage at the CES event featured a battery with 73 kilowatt-hours of energy. Jacobs claimed that the Qualcomm Halo wireless electric charging system was used to charge it on a world tour and that it proved more reliable than using a cable.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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