Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, giving his annual keynote speech to kick off the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), thanked Microsoft’s 1 billion customers for making 2010 a special year.
"(It) was a very, very exciting year for our customers,” Ballmer said. “We launched Windows Phone 7, Office 2010, and Kinect, and we introduced Internet Explorer 9 and Office 365. We saw great growth in our Bing and Azure services, and with the amazing success of Windows 7, it’s truly been a year like none other."
New Kinect-enabled entertainment experiences and historic sales figures led the Xbox team’s announcements at CES.
The last two months of 2010 belonged to Kinect. In its first 60 days on the market, 8 million Kinect sensors were sold, the company announced at CES. That figure significantly outpaced the 5 million units the company had expected to sell in 2010.
Overall, last year was the biggest year ever for the Xbox brand, said David Dennis, group public relations manager for Xbox. “Over the holiday season, console sales for the Xbox 360 hit 50 million, making it the No. 1-selling console in North America for the past six months,” he said. “The Xbox LIVE community continued to grow in leaps and bounds last year, adding a new member every two seconds. Xbox LIVE has more than 30 million active members.”
At CES, Microsoft also announced new Kinect-enabled experiences that aim to transform entertainment in the living room. A new experience called Avatar Kinect will bring a player’s avatar to life in a whole new way, using facial recognition technology to let a person not only control their avatar’s movements but also their expressions; when they smile, frown, nod and speak, the avatar will do the same.
Microsoft will continue to take Kinect’s controller-free experience beyond gaming and into entertainment throughout the year. This spring, Xbox LIVE Gold subscribers will be able to use Kinect to control their Netflix experience. Viewers will be able to pause, rewind and fast-forward their streaming movies with only their voice or gestures.
The company also announced that this spring, Hulu Plus will come to Xbox LIVE as a Kinect-enabled experience. As with Netflix, subscribers will be able to use controller-free motion and voice capabilities to instantly watch full screen popular TV shows anytime in HD.