A consumer lineup that extends from Xbox 360 to keyboards to the new Windows phones is the focus of this week’s Microsoft Open House, which brought all the company’s fall consumer offerings under one roof. Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices Division, hosted the event in New York City, walking guests through the lineup that Microsoft has in store for the holiday retail season including the latest from Windows, Windows Media Center, Xbox 360 and Xbox LIVE, Zune, Microsoft Hardware, Microsoft Office, Bing, MSN, Windows Live, and Microsoft Auto.
The highlight of this year’s Open House was Bach’s introduction of new Windows phones, available now around the world, running Microsoft’s new mobile operating system, Windows Mobile 6.5. “Our new Windows phones will help everyone stay connected with their friends and family, for work and for fun,” Bach said, noting that the new platform will give consumers access to a range of services such as Windows Live, Bing, Microsoft Exchange and a powerful new Internet Explorer mobile browser. “We are offering more phones around the world, and more applications than ever to trick out your phone some 600 and counting.”
Held at the Park Avenue Armory, the Open House event enabled Microsoft to use spaces that mirror various aspects of life, including a park-like setting complete with playground and tree house in which attendees were able to try out the new phones and see for themselves how easy it is to multitask when you have the right tools. Other areas include a gaming lounge featuring the latest Xbox 360 games and new experiences on Xbox LIVE; a family entertainment center highlighting new features of Zune and Windows 7 with Windows Media Center, a home office with Bing, Microsoft Office and new Microsoft Hardware and a garage featuring new Ford SYNC technology in two cars.
Beyond entertainment, the Microsoft Open House was designed to pay special attention to family-friendly technologies as a kickoff for the holiday retail season. When it comes to holiday buying, current Microsoft market research has shown many trends similar to last year, when an economic downturn changed the way consumers approached gift-giving.“This year, as with last year, consumers are more focused on family and friends,” Beilinson said. “Nearly seven in 10 adults we surveyed say they want to find ways to keep family and friends entertained while staying home.”
When it comes to bringing family and friends together in the same room, the Xbox 360 console is also popular, and this year Microsoft will offer a holiday value bundle with “Lego Batman” and “Pure,” and new titles such as “Beatles Rock Band” and “Forza 3” that allow the whole family to play along. And although those big-ticket items are a big draw at Open House, the event also features the latest hardware from Microsoft, such as keyboards, mice, webcams and other devices that help make work and play easier and more enjoyable.
“Today technology offers us so many ways to connect and communicate,” said Beilinson. “If you can’t travel to be with your family this year, then a webcam and Windows 7 can at least allow you to talk face-to-face. With Xbox LIVE you can play games or even watch movies together, even if you can’t physically be together.” Then of course there are the new Windows phones. Beilinson says with all the popular applications such as Facebook and Netflix, the new platform provides so many ways to keep everyone informed that it might be easy to forget the most basic function of these next-generation devices. "These devices are becoming so powerful, sometimes we forget that they actually can make phone calls too,” he said.