For Microsoft's last CES keynote, Ballmer hawks Windows 8, Kinect

Steve Ballmer talks up Xbox, Windows 8 and Windows Phone software (See videos below)

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Microsoft Kinect has been offered so far only for the Xbox, allowing people to control what happens on screen by moving their arms and legs. Microsoft has shipped 18 million Kinect sensors since the technology started shipping about a year ago, Ballmer told the CES crowd, gathered at the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino.

Microsoft is also working with 200 companies to develop Kinect applications for PCs, he said, which will let people use physical gestures to do other things besides gaming. It remains to be seen exactly what, though a Microsoft video suggests things like playing musical instruments, controlling robots and doing exercises.

In fact, the Kinect sensor for Windows is available for preorder now from Amazon's online store, priced at $250. The item will be released Feb. 1, the site says.

"Just as Kinect revolutionized gaming, we'll see it revolutionize other industries, like entertainment, healthcare and more," Ballmer said.

Microsoft is also using Kinect to bring interactive TV to the Xbox. As an example, it has signed a deal with Sesame Street, which will develop programs that let children interact with puppets. A young girl took the stage to show how she could mime throwing objects at the screen, and count along with the characters as the items landed in a box.

Gary Shapiro, head of the Consumer Electronics Association, predicted Microsoft will return to CES. "I would be shocked if a Microsoft leader does not return to the stage again in the next few years," he said in introducing Ballmer.

But for next year, the CEA will have to find someone else.

While many anticipated Bill Gates making a surprise appearance at the final keynote, he was nowhere to be seen, except in a short video that chronicled the company's 15 years of keynotes.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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