I took some time today to watch Steve Balmer and his team from Microsoft present at CES in Las Vegas. I was following some people talking about it on Twitter during and after.

What really amazes me is how much we now take amazing advances for granted these days; we expect it instead of being surprised.

Companies used to release everything at one of the big shows. It was the best way to guarantee a large uptake if the reviews went well. Today though, companies spread their announcements out over time to better take advantage of speed to market and critical purchasing seasons like Christmas. It is also harder to keep things quiet. So ultimately they have fewer big announcements at trade shows.

Microsoft's XBox 360, XBox 360 Live and Kinect were all released prior to the CES. So the really cool thing was an add-on to that platform. Essentially you can now animate an avatar using the Kinect controller (AvatarKinect); not only body motion but "facial expressions". They also demo'd the voice and body controller aspects for interacting with your home entertainment system including streaming movie, TV and music.

WF7 (Windows Phone 7) was a little less exciting from a demo perspective. It is hard to appreciate the user interface improvements without using it yourself for a period of time. A lot of the really cool stuff around voice and Bing search is apparently not available yet in Canada. As well, we already saw a big leap with the iPhone release. One really clever part of the WF7 platform is the tie-in to the XBox platform via XBox Live and light version of the games available on the phone. Smart. Strategies like this will build a following over time and with the number of developers who have access and skills in Microsoft platforms, they will likely pick up even more momentum over time. While it is a pain for developers to have several large players in the smart-phone space, ultimately it is going to drive innovation.

From a hardware perspective there are some fairly cool tablet and touch screen PCs coming out from a number of vendors. I must admit I got distracted and I was only tentatively paying attention at this point. However, the Microsoft Surface 2 was amazing. Each LED (pixel) in the display is also an infrared sensor. This makes it so much more than a touch screen. I suspect that the technology is a little ways out from being mainstream but "wow".

The technologies we see in science fiction movies (and many spy and police dramas) are not so far off from being reality.

A recent Tweet from Josh Brown (one of our developers):

"Lots of neat stuff coming from Microsoft soon, now its up to the developers to make it rock!"

Well I am not a developer. But as a product manager and idea person, I am already starting to come up with lots ideas on how we can integrate these technologies into our software products to allow for more interesting and productive interfaces. Other companies like Apple and Google are doing cool things too. I'm sure others (our team and customers) will add to the ideas as well. (Maybe we will set up a little lab and let people play.)

Then it will be up to the development team to make it rock.

(Yes, I am serious about the lab.)