Here's the thing about technology and the technology industry: pioneers and visionaries like Microsoft , Intel , Sony and so many others didn't make their fortunes focused on today and tomorrow.
They're all about the future, which is particularly important in today's current economic climate.
And that's the backdrop of the shrinking, but still massive Consumer Electronics Show which kicks off in Las Vegas tonight with the highly anticipated keynote address by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. It's an address that Bill Gates has delivered forever, but with his decidedly diminished day-to-day role at the company nowadays, the task now falls to Ballmer for the first time. More a businessman and strategist than tech guru, his comments tonight might be particularly salient as the tech industry grapples with global recession and the worst holiday shopping season since 1970.
I'm told Ballmer's keynote will focus largely on the company's upcoming release of its next operating system, the one that will succeed Vista, dubbed Windows 7. Ballmer has already tipped Microsoft's hand a little bit, giving us a sneak peak at last year's D: All Things Digital conference of the touchscreen capabilities Windows 7 will feature. Think iPhone touchscreen but for your desktop and laptop. Gesture recognition too. PC companies like Dell
and Hewlett-Packard are already out with screens that will support the new software, and tonight we'll get our best look yet at what other capabilities Windows 7 will offer.
The pressure is on Microsoft to deliver, and deliver big. The Vista release wasn't a debacle, but ongoing glitches and customer complaints colored the operating system with controversy with many corporate clients choosing instead to try to hold on to its older cousin XP as long as they could. I'm told Microsoft is determined not to make the same marketing and development mistakes again.