Microsoft’s Ballmer shows up at CES, after all


LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 07: Microsoft Corp CEO Steve Ballmer (L) and Qualcomm Inc., Chairman and CEO Dr. Paul E. Jacobs appear on stage together during a keynote address at the 2013 International CES. (David Becker/GETTY IMAGES)
January 8, 2013

After declaring last year would be its final turn in the central role at the International Consumer Electronics Show, Microsoft still made a surprise appearance on the keynote stage Monday. Chief executive Steve Ballmer joined in the keynote of Qualcomm chief executive Paul Jacobs to talk about the continuing mobile revolution.

Qualcomm, for those who aren’t familiar with it, produces the chipsets of a vast array of mobile devices. As Jacobs put it in his speech last night, Qualcomm is “at the heart” of everything that’s being shown at this year’s show.

Ballmer, unsurprisingly, took the opportunity to talk about Microsoft’s new operating systems and how they had been reimagined for on-the-go computing. A version of Windows, Windows RT, was built to run specifically on chips normally used in mobile devices, and Windows 8 also is designed to do well on tablets that don’t have as much computing power as full desktops.

While Ballmer’s appearance was certainly a surprise, it was not the main focus of Jacobs’ speech.

Jacobs, who has been the head of the chip-maker since 2005, began his speech by noting that this year is the first time a mobile company has opened the show. But there’s no ignoring the growth of mobile, he said. The number of new mobile connections made each day nearly doubles the number of new people born each day.

“Pretty soon, the mobile connections are going to outnumber us,” Jacobs noted.

Apart from giving an overview of where the mobile landscape is heading, Jacobs also offered specifics on how Qualcomm will help the industry cope with this spike in devices.

The main announcement of the speech was the company’s new generation of processors, the quad-core Snapdragon 800 series, which is designed to run quickly, powerfully and efficiently — consuming half the power of its predecessor.

Jacobs also highlighted some Qualcomm wireless charging features, ending his portion of the speech by showing off a Rolls Royce that — for three months — had gotten its only power from the company’s wireless “Halo” charging technology.

Jacobs said the technology allows drivers to power up their cars simply by parking in garages equipped with the system, without needing to plug in or even align the car in a particular way.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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